I Want to Listen More

I am sitting in beautiful downtown Houston outside the Hilton waiting for my friend to pick me up.  I enjoyed a wonderful convention and am blessed to stay an extra day and spend it with a friend I hadn’t seen in about 35 years until a brief visit in October. I am so excited for our time together.  But that’s not actually what this post is about or that will work into it I am sure.

As some of you know, I have been doing a lot of personal development stuff particularly in the areas of business along with becoming an all around better me…actually that’s the biggest thing I get from the books, podcasts, TED talks and Youtube sessions I engage in.  Over time I will share some of those nuggets because what you immerse in influences who you become.  This post is about one of those things I want to work on based on something a big leader in the real estate industry has been doing and talked about in a podcast.

He is an introvert and his business coach gave him an assignment to meet for coffee, talk to and listen to 50 strangers in a year and at the end ask them if there was a way he could help them with something. It was (is as he continues through another year) to increase his comfort level talking with people, strangers in particular.

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The curb beneath the horse’s nose is where I sat for 10 minutes with a total stranger.  The buggy I believe was for a wedding.

I totally loved the idea. Despite getting over-peopled, (especially in crowds) and needing my down time, I am more of an extrovert than introvert. I have therefore been wanting to modify the idea to suit what I need to work on.  I have exposed myself to crowds, this weekend being an example with over 1500 people in a grand ballroom for sessions and events day and evening, but I wouldn’t say I have a huge discomfort with it, just need downtime too.  I do need to listen to people more.  Anyone who knows me, knows I can talk endlessly.  On days when I am not talkative (I think, I am just listening), my friends comment that I am quiet. So I have been formulating a plan. Coming to Houston was round one of practice.  I sat with a lady on a plane and yes I did talk some but I concentrated on asking her questions.  I have talked and told my stories this weekend but have also listened.  Speaking of stories, here is what happened last night:

We had an 80’s theme closing party.  After leaving there I changed into jeans and then decided with the warm temperatures I wanted to go outside and enjoy a short walk.  As I was approaching the corner, there was a young lady on the phone then she hung up just as I got there and sat on the curb in tears.  I sat down beside her, gave her a hug and she told me her situation and unleashed her anger. I listened, made a couple of jokes (as I do when I try to disperse stress) and continued to sit with my arm around her and reassure her. In the end, I told her I was not making any judgment about her situation but told her in the next little while to evaluate it and that she is worth more than this moment and moments like these (if they happen regularly).  It was a 10 minute interaction with a stranger. I talked less than 2 minutes of it.  I am not a hero, did not go above an beyond, I was just there at that moment.  That, and I took the opportunity to listen and to provide for her in that moment, the hug that she needed (and for which she expressed great gratitude). My few words and my action of listening may impact her life in a small way now or maybe a huge way unknown or unrecognized by either of us.  However, I was rewarded in knowing in that moment, I made her feel worth more than all she was going for and that is huge.

Which brings me to my assignment for me.  I am going to be setting up coffee/tea/visit dates with family and friends to start, because they will still be nice to me if my personal social experiment goes south. After awhile, I will be looking to others to visit with.  I will plan for 1 hour of time, so if any of you want to volunteer, I will put you in my calendar. Even if you don’t like me, feel free to have coffee with me.  I will talk, but only enough to make the conversation more comfortable.  I will mess up with some of you and request a do over because I am just learning.  I won’t share any private details of our visit but if there is something I learn about me, I will blog about what you taught me keeping your name out of it unless you want me to share that.  And at the end, I will ask if there is anything I can help you with.  I may not be able to in the moment or even at all, but sometimes someone can give a request and a year down the road I can say, ‘hey, that someone needed this or that, and now I know how to help’. If there is nothing I can help you with in the moment, that’s okay too.  I want it to be fun and relaxing and enjoyable for both of us. So, if you get a strange text from me in the near future, no need to wonder what I am up to, this is it.

Where They Are

It’s easy to look at someone and see where they are at.  There are those people who seem to have it all together.  It even appears it didn’t take a whole lot of effort to get there. Some people seem to have been born with the proverbial silver spoon in their mouth. There are others who seem to work pretty hard and they have things work out great for them. And then there is me.  I tried that and it didn’t work. I can’t do that; it’s not my thing. If I had that opportunity, I would be there too.  If I had the helping hand, it would be easier. I am not as smart, popular, healthy, motivated, strong, trained, as the other person. I just don’t have that kind of time to spend doing what is required. I could go on with the voices.  We all have them, badgering us at every turn, pushing us down, making us doubt and holding us back. What can we do with those voices when they keep pestering us, especially those ones that compel us to compare ourselves with others?

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You know those people you read about or maybe you personally know who have overcome great odds and reached a goal?  There is that guy who was from a broken home, who ended up on the street and then started a business and then another and another and made it big. Or how inspiring is the person who were in an accident and came back from it, overcoming odds beyond imagination and making an impact on the world. The stories are endless; spending time reading and listening to the stories are inspiring.

The difference between the first paragraph and the second is knowing the backstory.  When you know what a person went through to get where they are, you can be inspired by it.  When you don’t consider what they went through, you may think they were just lucky or gifted or were handed the opportunities.

So back to the voices. What can we do? Learn the story, get to know the person and find out where they started.

This applies to our jobs, our business ventures, it applies to our family and home, to our health–specifically what is determined/affected by our habitual food intake and exercise (or lack thereof). Aside from the hard work someone may be putting in, there are sacrifices we may not see, there was the prep work that happened years ago in another job that we don’t see.  The person may have spent time purposely networking, meeting people, calling people, connecting with people for the sake of kindness which has come back to them.

This moment, this ‘where they are’, happened over time, maybe a lifetime of experiences. Where you are today, didn’t happen over night.  There was a time you were not as accomplished, and there are people who look to you for inspiration.

I Believe…

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One thing I thing most people struggle with, particularly in developed areas where we are not worried about our daily bread, our safety, a roof over our head or any other day to day needs, is knowing what we will do when we grow up.  It doesn’t matter how old you are, the question can crop up, perhaps not in that way but ‘what will I be when I grow up?’ still rings true when we go through life changes and want to know our purpose.

In the mean time, we go through life dreaming about things we want to do, managing life’s struggles, hoping for something different, enjoying some great moments, trying new things, engaging in conversations, building a family, a home, a life, and still wondering what is it all about.

I still haven’t figured it out but I feel like I am getting closer and none too soon; I’m not getting any younger.  One thing I have realized is the person I was as a child, the person I was a teen, young adult, and all through my life is still the same.  Yeah I know; profound. Reflecting on moments in my past, I can pinpoint certain moments, moments that defined me and moments where someone said something like when my eighth grade teacher wrote something about me that I had to look up because I didn’t understand the words he used.  I have the same deep desires in me now and in all I do, those things come through.  I guess it is my why.  Still trying to define it but in a nutshell, I have a desire for people to live an abundant life.  I believe this is done by realizing ones full potential and I believe many people are bogged down with self doubt in their abilities.  I believe that when people feel good, they feel better (again profound).  Feeling better means having more self confidence, feeling capable, feeling ready to concur the world.

I believe that exercise is a huge key in developing those feelings of self efficacy.  When you are strong physically, you are stronger mentally and emotionally.  When you can take care of yourself, you can take care of others and other things. I love helping people realize they can do more than they think they can.

I believe when you look good you feel good.  I mentioned my Monat business.  Bad hair days are real.  What is also real is hair and scalp problems that go beyond a curl out of place.  People don’t talk about it.  They hide the scalp inflammation, they hide the thinning hair and cut off the breaking end and just don’t feel good.  I love it when someone finds relief with these through a great product that I introduced them to. Monat is my business to produce passive income.

We are flipping a house.  I have always wanted to do something like that.  I have enjoyed design and construction and decorating for…ever.  I am an ideas person, always have been so this is a great outlet for that. As with Monat, it is a means to secure a different lifestyle via real estate investing. My husband and I are looking for a means to spend more time doing the things we love and putting time in else where.

Finally, I believe we all have the potential to do so much more in any area of life and the things we do converge in magical ways to make us more of who we are and who we are meant to be.  Each life experience, every struggle, all the milestones culminate in growth that makes each person unique and uniquely capable of doing more than he or she can even imagine.

Or at least that’s what I believe.

 

Life Is Too Short To…

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Some of you may be wondering ‘whatever happened to Dawn and that new blog she started?’.  Some of you may be tuning in for the first time.  Feel free to go back and read the previous posts.  I started a little series and intend to continue on with that in due time.  I am starting with a post today that gives you an idea about where I have been the last 7 months…well, really the things that started about a year ago, just to get you updated on where I have been and where I am going.  It’s good for you to know what I am about, to know if you want to hang out here.  And it is good for me to know where I am going because going in circles only works until you are too dizzy to stand.  No guarantees there won’t be some circles, but direction really helps.

A year ago at this time my husband Lawrence and I were in Hawaii, living it up in the sun, sightseeing and hiking some trails.  Living the dream in a tropical local only lasts so long for most of us, but really it would be nice to have a few more chances to live the dream. When we returned, I had my personal training course to complete (which I finished in May) and I was presented with an opportunity to have a business and have some residual income coming in.  Who doesn’t want to be paid while on vacation.  I have been presented with other opportunities but this one fit me because it fell in with my why for pretty much everything I do (more on that later). I started out slowly and have been building consistently, with (mostly) consistent work and consistently doing a little more.  There was a learning curve as I figured out the products and what people are wanting and how I was going to do that.  And I wasn’t sure on why yet (more about that later). I joined with Monat at the end of February.

Fast forward a month or two and Lawrence was forced to take his remaining weeks of vacation and his banked time (from all the overtime he had worked and had to bank in lieu of pay).  It was 7 weeks worth and he got to come with me to bootcamp and kickboxing and cycling during the day and he caught up on some things around the place and got a head start on other things. We really loved the lifestyle, but it didn’t pay well or at least it wouldn’t have if it kept going.  He was fortunate to be given some work when it ran out and kept his job. He earned a week of vacation only to have to again take it off in October. There was always the threat of not having a job after that period of time and each month there was a new ‘end of job’ date (and still is). Back to the spring; when we were enjoying time off, Lawrence mentioned to some friends that he needed to do something different. That’s when opportunity hit the fan again and we were introduced to something they had been working on for a couple years.  We decided life is to short to be unsure about a lifestyle we don’t love, and decided to jump into a lifestyle that, although it has no guarantees, is way more fun and has more potential to give us the lifestyle we desire. He continues to work in his current job as we march forward in this opportunity we are pursuing.

Starting a corporation, learning about real estate investing, flipping houses and all that entails has a huge learning curve and beyond the hands on learning there has been the ‘book’ learning as well.  Fitting it all in has been a juggling act to say the least, with continued feeding and caring for my family and pets and chickens and washing eggs, and laundry and dishes and cleaning the house occasionally.  And I definitely wasn’t going to let go of my sports and activities because that is part of the lifestyle. Anyway, you get the idea.

With all that learning came personal development because…well, because I believe personal development is so important.  I grew up in a family that puts a lot of value in personal growth, living life abundantly, being our best selves to serve others in whatever capacity the individual is called. And through the podcasts, books, you-tube videos and ted talks plus the regular things like meeting and talking with amazing people, hanging out with people, sermons, and personal conversations, I have learned a lot of stuff.  My head has sometimes felt like that cartoon image from Bugs Bunny of being hit with cymbals and continuing to vibrate long after.  And through going through this, I have been able to pinpoint more, why I want to write a blog, and have a fb page and do my businesses and they really all do come together.  Like really what does sports, fitness, feeding chickens and a garden and cycling, and house flipping and getting people anti-aging hair care products and cooking good meals for my family and, and and… all have in common? Probably as much as the million things each person does and yet, I am beginning to see what those things have in common.

I will share some of that on my next post which will be posted on Wednesday…look at me having a deadline and accountability to the three of you reading this today and tomorrow :-).

Gravel Is My Friend; It Brings Strength

Another observation along our journey cycling across Canada:

Gravel is my friend; it brings strength. We ride road bikes. They don’t have big thick tires. Our bikes handle really well on pavement and not so well on gravel. Loose gravel or sand can put you into a slide. We stay to paved trails and roads and when entering a gravel driveway or parking lot we are extra careful. We took the Trans Canada Hwy and had heard it has been greatly improved in the last ten years. We did run into some narrow shoulders in Saskatchewan that were half gravel but were able to stay on the pavement. We had to take a couple of side access roads (to get to a restaurant/rest stop), but not for a great distance and in Manitoba when the access road was going to be long, we walked the bikes through the ditch back to the highway.  We really like to avoid gravel.

Imagine our surprise when after doing 110 km and coming into Portage la Prairie, we hit an all gravel shoulder for about 5 kilometres.  Because they were rebuilding the roads in that area, it was fresh loose gravel too, and we had to ride in it. Gripping my handlebars, I was feeling like a mountain bike rider navigating bumpy trails, trying to keep the front wheel on task and both wheels from slipping out from under me all the while the death grip on my handlebars making permanent imprints in the padding. We saw a side access road and opted for that for a couple of kilometres. Who knew the type of road we had avoided a few days earlier would be our road of preference at some point.  The side road at least had the tracks in the middle of the road where traffic had pushed aside the gravel a bit, and we were able to ride down one of those less gravelly trails. We ended up back on the shoulder of the highway when that road ended, and we fought the gravel some more, sweating worse than we had all day in the 30˚C heat. At the end of it, we were on some rough pavement, which was then considered a huge blessing in comparison.  We got new pavement as we got closer to the city and continued on the portion of highway that was built to go around the city.  We found a place to stay along the highway there and the girls had been in town and met us there.

As an aside, we have our support vehicle and the crew goes ahead and stop at scenic places along the way.  I will do a post on the support vehicle sometimes soon.  We found it was nice to ride to a motel and have them meet us there so the next morning we could get up and go and the girls could take their time to get up and get ready before starting their day, instead of having to all get ready so they could drive us to where we stopped the day before.

The next day, we had a short day to Winnipeg and the roads were good, but we had some stops on gravelled drives. I had confidence going over the gravel; it seemed easy. It was really easy compared to what we had done the day before.  Not only that, the few metres we had to travel on the gravel seemed like a cake walk in comparison to what we had done.  The work done the day before and other days had given me the strength to hold my balance and I felt so much stronger for having fought the kilometres of gravel before.

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This was a side road in a small town in Saskatchewan. The gravel wasn’t too bad here and we could stay closer to the pavement.

We often run into gravel in life; those things that can make our life more difficult or even a bit miserable, and we feel like they are such a pain to endure. We get through, and the next time we realize it isn’t so bad. When we learn a new sport or try a new activity, it can be difficult. We don’t feel comfortable and it feels like it could take forever to get comfortable and have some semblance of control. It may be that first time you try to jog after years of not putting that action into motion, and it feeling totally foreign. Or getting on a bike or skates or skis after a bunch of years and fearing the lack of control before you even start, then navigating through those first shaky moments until you find that long-lost balance and muscle memory.

It could be the gravel we face is a task becoming more difficult; facing obstacles along our journey, dealing with setbacks in our progress or just feeling discouraged. Perhaps the gravel is an uphill battle in our mind; those times when we think we can’t do something, when everything seems sooo… difficult.  That is when we need to remember: this will only make me stronger; carry on!

Wind Is Your Friend, Or Enemy

Continuing with excerpts from an article I wrote a few years ago on clarity.  I am adding more information and here and there will also add an aside in italics just so you don’t get lost with my jumping around.

Wind is your friend or enemy; it’s perspective. We have had some challenging days on our cycling trips when it comes to wind. Those were the days we faced the wind. Since we are traveling across Canada from the west coast to the east coast we are basically going the same direction most of the time. That means as the wind changes from day to day, so does our perspective.  As we are riding, it always feels like there is a bit of a breeze from the front, blowing in your face. You can tell the direction of the wind, by how much effort you put in compared to the speed you attain.

We watched the weather forecast to see which way and how strong the wind would be blowing for the day. On the days the wind was against us we grimaced; still we went for our ride, and we reached for our goal. On our journey through the prairies we had two particularly bad days, on the same day a week apart. The first bad day, we only went 92 km, rather than the usual 100.  The second bad day, we made 100 but our unmet goal had been a loftier 120 km. I was thoroughly exhausted when we got to Moosomin, Saskatchewan, I was close to tears and the idea of completing the other 20 kilometres was out of the question.  It had been a south-east wind.  Usually I am in front and set the pace for the ride, but that day my dear husband took the lead so I could draft behind him.  That is when the front cyclist cuts through the wind making it easier for the following cyclists, in this case only me.  I worked hard at staying in his draft but still struggled with the wind and pushing through.  That day our average speed was only 20.4 km/hr and we were on the bike for 4 hours and 53 minutes.

The day after that tough 100 km ride, we woke up to the winds of change, or rather the change of winds.  A north-west wind was perfect for us as we were generally traveling in a south-east direction.  We made it from Moosomin to Brandon, Manitoba, 143.5 km.  We were on our bikes for 4 hours and 47 minutes and our average speed was 30.0 km/hr.  That was great considering we slow down looking for places in towns, slow when we stop for whatever reason and there was the big valley with a fast down, and slow up, just before reaching our destination.  That extra 20 km we didn’t do the day before was made simple that day and we reached the goal of the day despite the setback of the day before.

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The roads look really long when riding through the prairies.  They weren’t all flat as rumour would have it, but this little stretch of road in Manitob seemed to go forever.

So many times in our lives, we have the wind blowing the wrong way and we give up on our efforts and don’t make headway. We wait for that wind at our back and we don’t get to where we are going as quickly as we want and we can feel discouraged. On our journey across Canada, we ride despite the conditions, although we allow some flexibility because it is supposed to be fun. At home, I tend to be a fair weather cyclist, runner snowboarder, and sometimes even my indoor workouts are put aside due to unpleasant conditions. Conditions are not always ideal, so I need to find ways to do what I need to do when I don’t feel like doing it.  When I am cycling around our area, I usually do a there and back or a circuit.  I like to front-load the ‘against the wind’ part of the ride and have the wind at my back on the return. I sign up and commit to things and make appointments with people just to keep myself going no matter which way the wind blows.

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We also dealt with heat on our trip through Saskatchewan so took a day off when we reached Regina (one of those contigency plans) and toured the legislature, the RCMP Training Centre and driving to the filming site of Corner Gas.  Our trip is not just about the cycling but also the fun in the journey.

Each of the days we struggled against the wind, we put a big dent in our ultimate goal and at the end of each day we felt we had accomplished something even if it wasn’t as much as we had hoped.  We did more than we would have had we let the wind deter our efforts.  The bonus of riding against the wind was, at the end of those days we were stronger than the day before, both physically and mentally.

The wind is our enemy, or at least it feels that way when we are fighting it all day long, when we don’t seem to be making the headway we had hoped to, when every effort to move forward feels like a fight.  The wind is our friend which is no more apparent than when it is strongly pushing us toward our goal from behind.  The wind is our friend even when it isn’t apparent because we are fighting it all day long, when we don’t seem to be making the headway we had hoped to, went every effort to move forward feels like a fight, because that is when we are strengthened, that is when at the end of the day we feel like we did it anyway, because we had the strength to do it.  It really is perspective.

Some Will Call You Crazy

As I mentioned in my blog post Cycling Canada, I have been writing articles for a magazine and will be taking some of them and reworking into some blog posts.  This article had a bunch of things that became clear along our cycling journey.  I will do each as a separate blog post, with edits and additions and maybe some photos. So we begin:

One can gain a lot of clarity riding a bike for a few hours a day. When we plan our distance bike trips, we aim for 100 km a day and hope to go about 25 km/hr.  That is quite a few hours in the saddle especially if we are bucking the wind or climbing a mountain. I will share with you some of the things I learned along the way, and how it applies to our fitness journey and other areas of life.

Some will call you crazy; some will be inspired. We stopped at a small place in Saskatchewan where there were only a couple of food trucks. They said they were half way between everywhere. The ice cream guy asked us, ‘’Are you riding for a cause, or riding ‘cause you’re crazy?” We weren’t riding for a cause, so that left the second option. People express their amazement and admiration by asking if you are crazy. Other people simply  ask (or make the statement), because that is what they think.

As an aside, when we were traveling through the prairies and northern Ontario, there wasn’t always a large town, or even a small one along the highway in which to get food.  We did plan our days and relied on people letting us know if there was something on the way.  We ate at some pretty interesting places along the way and decided against the bar in that one tiny town that had a bunch of Harleys parked out front.  Somehow walking in with our bike shorts didn’t seem like a good idea, so we got on our bikes and headed to the next town.

Along the way we met other cyclists cycling across Canada only faster or farther in a year. We met people along the way who met many cyclists going through their area. It wasn’t weird to those people, nor uncommon. It isn’t strange or crazy to us.  We know people who have done it and are doing it. We have been to events where cyclists are way faster than I am, where they are going further distances and they look a lot fresher afterwards.  We have met and also know other cyclists who would be considered much better (more skilled) cyclists. The circles you hang in become your normal and are not as crazy as some may think.

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This was in British Columbia and it was cold and foggy while we climbed to the summit over 2 days.  A couple of kilometres later we had sunshine and warmer weather and it became much more fun, in part as well, because we were going down a bit more.

This past week I was talking to a friend’s mom who has been following some of my activities on Facebook and really enjoyed my updates last year as we did our trip.  This week I was talking about the Spartan Race and she expressed that she “Just can’t get into my head”. My mom kind of had the same response in asking me why I would do it. Neither understands why I would do such a thing because it isn’t something either would do or even think about doing. But that’s okay.

As you venture into a new, perhaps uncommon activity, you will have similar questions and comments. Do it anyway. Be inspired by someone who has learned a new sport, someone who started running after years of not, someone who is becoming fit and healthy. Find a sport, or activity you want to try, and just do it. Injuries and disabilities aside, your body is amazing and can do more than you think it can. Call me crazy, but I can do it!