Overwhelmed

I’ve lived what most people consider a crazy life. I built my house all by myself with minimal external help and zero experience with any form of construction, I went to France to work as a raft guide with no experience on small, steep, cold, technical rivers and no knowledge of the French language, I moved to Colorado for my paramedic training prepared to live in my van with no money and no job possibilities when I returned to Canada…. and there’s a long list of other examples. But I’ve always taken on these challenges with almost no degree of nervousness at all. My motto is “if it can be done, it can be done by me”.

Yesterday though, me and a few of my buddies took my truck and 16′ flatbed trailer to pick up my new maple syrup evaporator. Last year I tapped 120 maple trees and made about 80 liters of syrup with my small hobbiest evaporator. But this year I decided to step it up and tap 1000 trees with a new (used) evaporator. My previous evaporator was 2′x6′ but my new evaporator is 4′x14′. My maple shack is only 16′ long! My new evaporator is made of cast iron and stainless steel with about 1000 pounds of firebrick. The chimney is 12″ in diameter and 30′ high. I completely loaded the truck AND trailer and still only had collected about a third of the equipment. Every piece involved with this equipment can only be moved by a minimum of 4 people.

Tasks ahead of me include: tearing down a wall of my sugar shack so I can get the evaporator in there, finding 6-8 friends to help me move it, rebuilding the shack so it is 8′ longer, cleaning all the old mortar off of the fire bricks, figuring out how all the pieces fit together again, cutting holes in the roof of the shack to accept the smoke chimney and 2 steam chimneys, lifting the 30′ long, 200 pound chimney into place, and connecting the evaporator to the 1200 gallon sap holding tanks. Then I have to figure out how all this stuff actually works! This is all before I even consider making syrup.

To do this I have to learn how to tap 1000 trees and run the lines (using gravity only) back to the shack. Anyway, all of this to say, as I was looking at and loading all of this stuff, I finally felt nervous, anxious, stressed and overwhelmed by the challenge ahead of me. And I have to admit, I didn’t like feeling this way very much!

Luckily experience has taught me what I need to do… Just like building the Ark, I can’t think of the entire process all at once. “I’ll NEVER be able to do all of that!” Instead I have to break the challenge ahead of me into manageable tasks. First I need to focus on collecting the rest of the equipment and bringing that shack wall down so we can get the evaporator into the shack. On September 25th, I’m hosting a trail race here where I’m sure I’ll be able to secure enough guys to help me move the evaporator into the building. And that’s where I need to stop thinking! Those 2 jobs are big ones, but with my plan, they’ll be easy-peasy.

The stress and anxiety being caused by this challenge is new to me and although I don’t like it, I have to admit it’s a little bit exciting. It’s kind of like a suspenseful movie… I’m on the edge of my seat waiting to see what will happen next! I certainly expect to learn a thing or two along this journey, and if I come across anything I think will benefit others, I’ll share it here.

Published in: on August 30, 2010 at 9:37 am  Comments (2)  
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If it can be done, it can be done by me

“If it can be done, it can be done by me”

This has been my motto pretty much my entire life. I didn’t actually coin the phrase until a few years ago, but I have always lived with this philosophy.

My parents are extremely conservative and stable people. My dad met my mom when he was in grade 9 and she was in grade 8. They started dating and are still together and happily married today. While my dad was in high school, he got a part time job at a local corrugated box company. He was offered a full time position when he graduated from high school. He retired from that very company 3 or 4 years ago.

I am about as opposite from this as possible. Although I realized my parents were always there to provide me with a safety net, they really didn’t understand or encourage the majority of my endeavours. Attending university didn’t make much sense to them, and accepting a job to guide rafts in the French Alps was certainly bordering on insanity. How could I possibly expect to guide a raft down an extremely dangerous river when I didn’t even speak the language of my guests?

“If it can be done, it can be done by me”

I honestly don’t believe there is anything special about me, but I don’t believe I am lacking anything either. So if something has been done by someone before, then what should restrict me from doing the same thing?

Like I said, I’ve always lived this way, even if I didn’t have the motto to back me up. I’ve guided and kayaked crazy whitewater rivers, I’ve climbed 14,000+ foot mountains, volunteered and lived in the Guyanese rainforest, obtained my undergraduate and masters degrees, worked as a firefighter, helicopter paramedic, and community developer…. I’ve done a lot of stuff.

But investing everything I had into a 6,000 square foot sawmill that was on the verge of falling down with the dream of converting it to our home and conference center was definitely worthy of psychiatric evaluation.

What did I know about construction, carpentry, electrical, plumbing, drywalling, etc.?

The succinct answer to that question is a simple (and truthful) “nothing”, “nothing at all”.

What was I thinking?

I was thinking that construction, carpentry, electrical, plumbing, drywalling, etc. are all things that could be done by other people. If other people can do those things, then why shouldn’t I be able to do them too?

There is absolutely no reason at all. So I bought books and magazines, and asked advice from people with experience in those fields. And sure enough, little by little, day by day, things began to come together. There were certainly some learning curves which were steeper than others and there were also many days (weeks) of frustration. But in the end (7 years later), this place is the palace I always dreamed it could be.

But there is a reason I chose to write about this topic today… You see, I recently found a small glitch in my motto….

The entire house is pretty much completed with the exception of the ensuite bathroom. This is a 200 square foot bathroom with 64 square foot walk in European shower. A lack of financing prohibited me from starting the bathroom until a couple of months ago. This was going to be my most complicated construction project to date. I have experience now with plumbing, drywall, and tile installation, so I wasn’t too worried about that. But we decided it would be nice to have radiant floors in this bathroom. I have experience with the piping, but I haven’t done any precision concrete work before.

But if it can be done, it can be done by me.

So I laid the radiant heating piping and got to work on the concrete. This is where I learned that maybe if could be done by me, but unfortunately with no experience working with this medium, if couldn’t be done as level and as smooth as I would have liked!

When working with wood or drywall or even plumbing and electrical, one attempt can be made and if I didn’t like the outcome I could tear it up, start again, or sand it down until it worked. But with concrete, once it’s in, it’s in.

Oops.

I don’t know what I did wrong. Maybe my mix was wrong. Maybe I should have had some help so I could have poured the entire floor all at once instead of in sections. Or maybe with my lack of experience, I simply lack the talent.

Admittedly, I also have become a little cocky with my motto and despite having no experience with radiant floor concrete laying, I never spoke with anybody in the field to learn if there were any tricks to the trade. Maybe that would have helped….

Anyhow, the bottom line is that the concrete is in now and it’s not as level and smooth as I would have liked. This week, I’m going to lay the tile and hope I can smooth things out with the thinset. But regardless, this all comes back around to “Attitude”. When the bathroom is finished and ready to use, it will have been created by me. Only me. It made not be perfect, but it was made with my own 2 hands and I’m going to be proud of my effort.

But I have learned some lessons from this endeavour.

First, maybe if it can be done, it can be done by me. But I have to understand that I might not be able to do it as well as somebody with experience in that field. Can I paint the Mona Lisa? Certainly I could. But would it look as good as da Vinci’s masterpiece?????

So I have a couple of options. First I could hire da Vinci to paint a portrait for me and in the end I am guaranteed a beautiful portrait. Money will have bought that portrait for me and again, it will be beautiful. But what connection will I have to that portrait?

I could paint the portrait, or install the radiant floor myself. In the end I will have a personal connection with the end project. I could focus on the negative when people ask whether the painting is of a house, a landscape or a face! Or I could feel proud for taking on the challenge myself, with the understanding, that the next time I’ll do a much better job.

So, if it can be done, it can be done my me. And if I can do it, what’s stopping you?

Get out there and give it a try. Maybe your results won’t be what you expected, but they will be YOUR results. Feel proud of yourself for taking on the challenge and if you’re not happy with your results, don’t sweat it, give it another go and I guarantee you’ll do it better the next time.

Published in: on July 19, 2010 at 8:04 am  Leave a Comment  
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Helping those who can’t help themselves

Spring is a busy time here at the Ark and for the past month or 2 now, my priorities have been to get everything cleaned up after the winter, prepare the firewood for next spring’s maple syrup run, prepare our trails and camp “stuff” for this summer’s youth leadership camps, build the new bed and breakfast apartment, start/complete the ensuite bathroom reno…. plus deal with my current spring/early summer clients. So unfortunately with all these priorities, this blog has taken a back seat.

But I’m posting today because I’ve added a new priority to my list of priorities. And this priority fits in with my next VEAR related blog post: Appreciation. I have recently learned about an organization called Whispering Hearts Horse Rescue. This is a farm down in Hagersville, Ontario who have dedicated themselves to rescuing horses in need of rescue. If you read my blog on “Quitting”, you know I am a bit of a horse lover myself. And if you know me at all, you know that I generally prefer the company of animals to people!

The reason for this is that I always know where I stand with animals. They all have integrity and are true to who they are. They don’t hide behind any masks. They just put themselves out there and say “this is me, take it or leave it”. And my experience with my animals (dogs and horses and even llamas and cats to some degree) has been that whatever love you give them is equally returned in kind.

People seem to be a different story… I currently have 190 “friends” on Facebook. What does that mean? I know when I post something on my “Wall”, asking for some help here at the Ark, out of my 190 friends, I usually only get 6 or 7 responses and 3 or 4 of the same folks who come out to lend a hand. Don’t get me wrong, I do have a couple of amazing friends and I’m grateful to have them in my lives. But why do we call those 185 other people I know “friends”?

And this past couple of weeks I’ve arranged to meet some people for a showing of the Ark for a potential wedding or to meet them here because they were interested in purchasing Xena. So I spend a few hours getting everything cleaned up and organized, and then these folks don’t show up. They don’t call, they don’t write, they don’t notify me in any way that they have changed their minds. I just find that rude and inconsiderate. Too many people these days have a double standard… there is the way they would like to be treated, and the way they treat others.

But I’m slightly off-topic here. My point is that animals, and most specifically horses, are completely reliant on us humans. They used to run wild and were quite capable of taking care of themselves. But then we moved in, paved over all of their land and pastures, and domesticated them. Now they are completely dependent upon “us”. And like those people who say they are going to come to the Ark for a tour and then simply don’t show up. There are people out there who think it would be fun to own a horse…. then they learn what a huge responsibility that actually is. And again, like they Ark, they just stop showing up.

There are horses all over this country that are left neglected and/or abused. There is nothing they can do to help themselves and very few people with the means or motivation to help them. Horses are big animals. They eat a lot of food. The need a lot of space to move. And some of the more highly bred and domesticated ones need a lot of ongoing veterinary care. This all equates to a lot of money and time.

This is why I was so amazed when I learned about the Whispering Hearts Horse Rescue. Here are people who have dedicated their lives to helping these majestic animals that have been so badly neglected and abused. I am in awe of what these people do. For me, I think it’s impressive the time and money they invest to helping these horses. But for me, what is more impressive is the emotional toll these folks must pay. I cannot stand to see an animal suffering. It rips my heart out. My wife knows there is no way I’ll even be in the house if she wants to watch Marley and Me. I know the dog dies in the end and I can’t even bear to see a dog die of old age in a movie!

So here these people are, taking in these extremely damaged horses. Many of them will take in the love they receive and give it right back. But for many of them, regardless of the help they receive, it will be too late. They will either die or need to be put down. How can the WHHR folks make that decision? How can they muster the courage to euthanize an innocent creature that needs to be put to rest after a life of mistreatment and abuse? It must be devastating for these folks. I know I couldn’t do it.

But the work they are doing needs to be done and I’m glad they have taken it upon themselves to step up. Like I said, I couldn’t do it for a number of reasons. But just because I can’t directly help these horses in need, I can help indirectly. The way I’m doing this is a) by increasing awareness of the plight of some horses and b) by doing what I can to raise money to help these folks out.

There are so many worthy charitable causes out there and I know we can’t donate to them. Should we donate to find a cure for cancer/diabetes/heart disease? Should we donate to help the people of Haiti? She we donate to purchase African mosquito nets or fresh water projects?

I know there are a million charities and organizations we “can” donate to, and we certainly can’t help them all. But I also think we could all do a little bit more. How many of us buy $5 coffee/snacks or $7 magazines? Many of us will drop 10 bucks here and there without even giving it a second thought. For most of us 10 bucks is nothing. Many of us spend that on a daily basis without even noticing. What if today we didn’t mindlessly drop that $10. What if today my 190 Facebook friends sent me that $10 instead? I would have $1900 to donate to the Whispering Hearts Horse Rescue! I’m certain that $1900 could  be put to some very good use there. It would be appreciated much more than you probably appreciate that half-caff, double mocha, pistachio grande with whip cream (although that does sound pretty good!).

I like this charity for a few reasons… First, because it’s not a charity. It’s just some people who recognized a need exists and have stepped up to address it. This is a HUGE venture they’ve initiated, and I’m not saying everyone should start a horse rescue ranch. But what if we all spent more time addressing the smaller problems we have personally identified in the world instead of leaving it to somebody else? I think this world would be a much better place. So I want to help these folks, not only because they are helping horses, but because these are the type of people who deserve our help.

Okay, I’ve made my point. No need to beat a dead horse…. If you want to learn more about the Whispering Hearts Horse Rescue this is their web link: http://www.whhrescue.com/

They are having an open house fundraiser on July 10th and I will be going down to drop off whatever donations I can muster. If you would like to help me in my fundraising mission for them I’ve created a simple PayPal donation link on my website, that link is: http://www.synergyark.com/WhisperingHeartsHelp.html

I’ve already made my plea to my 190 Facebook friends and so far I’ve raised $100. Of course, that was from one single donor. I haven’t heard back from my other 189 “friends” yet….

Thanks for reading, I hope you can help.

Published in: on May 13, 2010 at 8:12 am  Leave a Comment  
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Attitude: Part 1

Have you heard the expression “Attitude is everything”? Well in the V.E.A.R. process it is actually ¼ of everything. When initiating any endeavour it is of vital importance that you enter into it with the right Attitude. Before you start a project, you should have already seen the success of that project in complete 3D detail in your Vision. In your mind, your success shouldn’t be in question at all. All the work you need to do to reach your goal should simply be viewed as “red tape”. It’s just stuff you need to get through and it’s all stuff you CAN get through.

Too many people start projects with a “Plan B” or failure excuse already at the ready. They may “try” to lose weight or quit smoking and for a couple of weeks they’ll count their calories, exercise, go on the nicotine patch…. But a month later there may be some big stressor at work that demands “all” of their time. Now there’s no time to exercise and it’s quicker and easier to grab some fast food for lunch. They “need” that smoke to calm theirr nerves… “But at least they tried” Did they? Did they really? Did they really “try” if they planned all along to fail?

Any goal needs to start with a strong Vision. First you need to know you are pursuing the right Vision. How badly do you really want it? Second, you need to see this success in your Vision in all dimensions. You need to trick your subconscious into believing your dream is already a reality. But you also need to be realistic. My motto is “If it can be done, it can be done by me”. Before you embark on the pursuit of your goal, honestly ask yourself if it can be done. Can a 5’4” woman be an NBA center? Can a 6’6” 240lb dude be a top horse jockey? Can a person who values their family, health, and leisure time far more than money go from meager beginnings to become a millionaire?

Those first 2 questions are easy to answer. If you’re not tall enough, you can’t be a center in the NBA. If you weigh too much, you can’t be a top horse jockey. But can someone from meager beginnings become a millionaire? Has it been done before? Yes it has. But how was it done? I believe that anyone can become a millionaire. But to reach that goal will require ALL of your focus. Unless you are extremely lucky, I don’t think it’s possible to earn that level of wealth and still be home at 5pm every day to play with the kids and take your weekends to go on extended canoe trips with the family. So maybe your goal is possible, but are you really willing to make the necessary sacrifices?

I think many diets fail simply because the person wants that chocolate éclair more than he wants to be thin. It’s that simple. If you want something, quite often something else needs to be sacrificed. Depending on the goal, that sacrifice might be a chocolate éclair or it may be time with your kids. You have to be honest with yourself and ask yourself what it is you want more. In essence this task is extremely straight forward, but in reality, the process can get complicated. But once you’ve made those decisions and decided upon your goal, than that should be that. Full steam ahead! Your Attitude needs to be one of total confidence. In your mind, success is guaranteed.

Published in: on April 20, 2010 at 8:55 am  Leave a Comment  
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Quitting

My life’s mantra is “If it can be done, it can be done by me”.

I don’t think I’m being cocky by saying this, I just don’t believe that there is anybody out there that is any better than me. So if they are capable of doing something then why shouldn’t I be as equally capable?

And I don’t just believe this about myself, I believe this holds true for everybody. In my presentations my motto is the one above, but my message is “and if I can do it, what’s stopping you?”

Of course, I know there are realities with inherent restrictions. Can I be a gold medal gymnast? At 6’2″ tall, that is unlikely. Of course, can any 6’2″ individual win the gold? So there you go, maybe it can’t be done.

I’ll get into this philosophy a little more when I post my views on “Attitude”.

But today I am faced with a dilemma. Just under a year ago I bought a 4 year old quarter horse. She was completely wild and had never been handled by anyone before. She just lived in herd where, even at 4 years old, she was the dominant mare. Prior to this I had no experience with horses. I knew next to nothing about them. I had only ridden the next-to-dead trail horses at the trail riding centers. But my plan with this horse was to work with her and break her to saddle all by myself.

“If it can be done, it can be done by me”

Here is where I forgot about some of the inherent restrictions with some tasks. Can this horse be trained to ride?

Certainly, without question.

Can this horse be trained by someone who has never worked or truly ridden a horse before?

“hmmmmm, good question”

Well the answer is ultimately “YES”. I was successful with all my ground work, and was able to back her without incident. We began with walking and she responded very well. She turned and stopped without hesitation, but you could tell by her ears and posture that she was always at high alert.

It was my third or fourth ride when I started to relax a bit more that I let my guard down. Something unknown to me, maybe it was something in the woods or something I did, but she spooked and lunged forward. Quarter horses are known for their power and quickness. She went from 0 to 60 in a blink of an eye, and I went off the back.

“Ouch”, that hurt. But I got back on and we finished the lesson.

Then, 4 out of the next 6 rides the same thing happened. Off the back I went.

“A man’s got to know his limitations”. If I was a better rider, I would: a) be able to anticipate when she might lunge forward and deal with it and/or b) ride through her lunge and quiet her down.

Can I be this good a rider? Certainly, no doubt. “If it can be done, it can be done by me”. But can I become this good a rider overnight or in a week or 2?

No, that’s probably not possible.

So, since I don’t have the time to work with my horse AND ride another horse to find my seat, I hired a trainer to work with Xena. Sure enough, seeing the way he handled her to quiet her down showed me that I was months, if not years, away from being a competent enough rider to calm her down.

After 4 lessons for Xena, she was responding much better and was much calmer under saddle. So I mounted her again, under the watchful eye of my trainer, and everything went perfectly. Okay, not “perfectly”. Xena behaved perfectly, but I kept making mistakes with my body and hand positions and I kept confusing her, so she would stop.

My fault, not hers.

Two days later I mounted her again on my own. The first 15 or 20 minutes went smoothly, although I kept making mistakes and confusing Xena. But then, all of a sudden, something went wrong. I don’t know if it was something I did (probably), but Xena started bucking and rearing rodeo style! I stayed with her as she took the straight line, but when she approached the wall, she turned and twisted suddenly, and this is when I was launched.

I think my bad knee landed first, then my butt, then my helmeted head slammed the wall. When the trainer came in to the arena to see what the loud thud was, I was standing on one side of the arena checking for any damage to my helmet, and Xena was on the other side of the arena.

I have now come to an important question in my life. “Is Xena too much horse for me?” If so, the next question is “Should I sell her and find a quieter horse?”

The answer to the first question is actually very simple. “At my current level of riding ability, she certainly is”. But if I sell her, then I will be quitting.

If you’ve read my book, you’ll know I’ve gone through some pretty tough stuff in my life and I NEVER quit. But this may be a little different.

Can I spend the time and work through my trials with Xena? I believe I can. I know it will mean more falls though. Falls are not a possibility. Falls are GUARANTEED. The next question is, “can I survive all of the falls?” I’ve gone off Xena about 8 times now. One time I slammed my hip into a round ring post and walked with a limp for about a week. Yesterday I slammed my head into the wall loud enough to bring the trainer into the arena. But I haven’t been seriously hurt “yet”.

“Is sticking with Xena worth the risk?” I guess I have to ask myself, how big is the risk? How can I possibly get hurt? If I do get hurt what do I stand at risk of losing? If breaking my arm was the worst thing that could happen, I would probably stick with it. But what if I end up like Christopher Reed?

So what is the purpose behind this post? To be honest, I think it was written to give me some clarity. To put the reality of the situation into black and white. In the past I have written posts like this and then deleted them once I found my answer. I wonder if this will get posted?

“If it can be done, it can be done by me?”

This is an important statement for me. If I leave Xena, what does that do to my psyche in regard to that statement? Will my confidence be shaken in future crazy undertakings. Does selling Xena equate to quitting and failure?

The reality is that in some ways it does. But above all else I have to keep my priorities in mind. My health is definitely in my top 3 list of overall priorities. Training a wild horse doesn’t break the top 10.

So is there anything wrong with quitting? “Wanderer” comes to mind here. From reading his posts, it seems he is all about living primarily guided by one’s value system. So if I value my health over my pride, then the answer to that should be simple….

Published in: on April 2, 2010 at 8:16 am  Comments (1)  
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Book Review: The Story of Blue Eye

I love reading books. Usually I read books in the horror genre: Steven King, Dean Koontz, and the like. But when I was in the used book store a couple of weeks ago I saw a book with a herd of wild horses on the cover, The Story of Bue Eye. I bought the book assuming “Blue Eye” was going to be one of the horses!

Blue Eye is actually an 18 year old boy/man who is one half Canadian Indian and one half Philadelphia Quaker. He lives with his extended family on a horse farm and trading post in the foothills of Alberta in the mid 1800′s. The book tells of his story of growing from a boy to a man and finding his way in a much simpler although more violent time. Although this is a fictional “western” sort of story, and in no way a “motivational” or “self help” book, many of the ideals and philosophies of Blue Eye and the other early settlers and native people really made me sit back and say “hmmmmm” from time to time.

I liked the book because for the most part it told a happy story of success and self discovery. Most stories I read or watch these days always include something really bad happening. I just know that if something is going too well for my favourite character I just have to wait for a few minutes because a bus is going to race around the corner and run over that person’s child or something! There were certainly a few pages of sadness and hardship in this novel, but they were there for a purpose and there was always meaning behind the event.

A main theme of this book was the “life path” of the characters of the book. One was a warrior because that was her life path. But her brother was a horseman because that was his life path. Their parents didn’t condone the girl for killing all the white traders that entered their lands, but they understand that was “her path”. What could they do?

Another line I liked in the book was when two friends came together after many years apart. The one said to the other how young and vibrant he looked. The response to that was that “life is easy if you stay on your path”…. huh

I’m not very good at book reviews, but suffice it to say I liked this book enough to attempt to write this review for it. It had a great story that kept my interested. Horses were involved but were hardly the central point. And there were also some interesting lessons to be learned if you wanted to sit back and think for a minute or two.

The Story of Blue Eye by Tyler Trafford.

Published in: on March 26, 2010 at 9:55 am  Leave a Comment  
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Follow your life path

These days I’m spending most of my time back at the maple sugar shack stoking the fire. When I’m not collecting sap or chopping wood I have lots of time to sit there and read. It’s beautiful, the sap is bubbling in the evaporator and the brook is babbling just outside of the shack’s door. Right now I’m reading a book called “The Story of Blue Eye”. I purchased this book at the used book store because it had a herd of wild horses on the cover. I had no idea what the story was about!

The book tells the story of Blue Eye, an 18-year-old native Canadian Indian in the early 1800′s in the foothills of Alberta. He and a few of his family have survived a smallpox outbreak and run a small trading post and horse farm. He’s a smart kid and a natural leader, but I can relate to him because he is always falling off his horse! Life on the plains during this time period is hard, but this book focuses more on the uplifting aspects of this lifestyle and I have really been relating to some of the messages the author reveals.

Now I’m not the type of guy who wants to pretend to be a native Indian and outwardly mimic their ways. In fact, most of the people who do that sort of thing drive me a bit nuts. I met a woman like that just last week. She liked to talk about the power of the earth and her whole “spirituality” and back-to-nature mentality. Then when she left, she ripped me off on a bottle of maple syrup! One of the messages of this book is that a person is defined by their deeds and not their words. I wonder what this woman would think of herself if she could objectively see her deeds.

But I digress… Blue Eye is actually a quarter British and thus is not fully accepted by his band. So to show his worth he volunteers to take part in their Sun Dance. In this ritual, pieces of wood are skewered through his chest and he is suspended above the ground by this wood until he relents or his guide determines he must come down to survive. The purpose of this ritual is for the emerging adult to find his life path. Back then some of the life paths could be that of a trader, horseman, hunter, warrior… Apparently the pain of the ritual allows one to focus on what is truly important to them.

Later in the book, someone who sees his scars comments on how amazing it is that he endured the ritual. He responded that the ritual wasn’t something to be endured, but rather experienced. This was a telling statement in itself as I myself have learned some of my most valuable lessons during times of hardship. Most notably were the 3 months I spent volunteering in Guyana, South America, the two winters I spent building my house in Canada with no heat or running water and falling off the cliff….

At the time this story takes place, the British and Americans have traveled across the continent and have developed everything to the east and south of them. Blue Eye wants to learn the ways of the British and Americans before they arrive to his region so he will know what to expect and how to possibly defend his lifestyle. So he travels to Boston, Philadelphia and London. In these big cities, he sees how busy and urgent everybody is. All the people are running around working and doing “important things”, but he doesn’t see these people following any path. He doesn’t believe these people have even considered what their life path even is.

This sentiment only took a line of the book, but it really got me thinking. How many of us do know what our life path is? How many of us have stopped, sat down and taken the time to even consider it? I’m not saying we should drive stakes of wood through our chest and hang ourselves from trees until we figure it out. But maybe we should stop, sit down and think for a minute. And by “a minute”, I mean long enough until we figure it out.

In “The Way of the Peaceful Warrior”, Socrates makes Dan Millman sit on a mat behind the garage until he can come up with something profound. If I remember correctly, it took Dan quite awhile to realize that whatever it is that he’s doing he should commit 100% of his focus to that activity.

Life today is race as soon as we burst out of the womb. As soon as we are able to walk we are encouraged to run. All the kids I know today have school during the day, and their evenings are filled with dance, piano, gymnastics, soccer, hockey, homework… In highschool, the pace and the pressure increase. And before we know it, we’re through university and/or working. We have families, jobs, mortgages, car loans, and a job. How many of us have ever even questioned why we’re working at that job or living in that neighbourhood? We live in that neighbourhood because that is where people live and that is where we could find a house we could afford. And we’re working at that job because we need the money to pay for that house.

How many of us are actually following our own unique life path? How many of us have even considered that we might even have our own unique life path?

Personally, I spent the first 18 years of my life living my life as dictated by my parents. The next 18 years I spent traveling and educating myself. I lived/worked on the river’s of Ontario’s north, in the Canadian Arctic, the mountains of France and Colorado, Guyana, eastern Europe, and a few big cities here and there. I learned from universities and colleges but also from the lessons of life. After 36 years I found the love of my life, and after falling 35 feet from a cliff (breaking my arm, leg, and back) I had the forced opportunity to evaluate my life and values. For the past 5 years I’ve been building my house and lifestyle on 164 acres of the Gatineau Hills.

I think I have found my life path, but the past couple of years have definitely passed by at a fairly torrid pace. This book made me realize that regardless of the path I’m on, I need to take a minute (or more) from time to time, to stop, reassess and reevaluate my path.

What about you? Have you ever looked at where you are? Why you’re there? And where you’re going? It’s up to you, but I consider this to be an extremely valuable exercise.

Published in: on March 23, 2010 at 8:39 am  Comments (2)  
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Energy – Way Out There!

So far I’ve written about our inexhaustible supply of internal Energy and the Energy we can absorb from all living things around us. Today I want to talk about the Energy you can send way out there away from you. This Energy is commonly known as the Law of Attraction and received widespread attention with the book and movie, The Secret. The Law of Attraction is hardly a new concept though, and this “secret” hasn’t just been recently released. In fact, my great-uncle Frank Thompson wrote about the Law of Attraction in his book “Success is an Inside Job” back in 1981.

Simply put the Law of Attraction states “that which you think about most will be drawn to you” or “thoughts become things”. Jack Canfield of Chicken Soup for the _____, believes it was the Law of Attraction that brought the National Enquirer to him and helped him earn his first $100,000.

I have to admit though that I’m a little conflicted when it comes to the Law of Attraction. I’m a fairly grounded individual and if I can’t see it, hear it or measure it, I have trouble believing it exists. But I am also extremely open-minded, so just like with the internal and external sources of energy, if I can see immeasurable proof of something’s existence, then I remain open to the possibility that it might be real.

The funny thing is, that despite my skeptical attitude when it comes to “the Secret”, if it does exist I am probably better at making it work than anybody else out there. I give a number of examples of how it has worked for me in my book, but probably the most stunning example came from watching the movie Aspen Extreme. In this movie a couple of guys get tired of their lives in the auto industry in Detroit, pack up their van, and move to Aspen to become ski bums. The one guys ends up marrying rich and leading this dream life. I was living in Hamilton and watched this movie with my housemate. Our favourite song at the time was “I’m a Loser” by Beck because we both believed we were leading deadend, uneventful, boring lives. After watching that movie, I knew I wanted to be a ski bum in Aspen!

Now I know how crazy that sounds, but what happened is even crazier! A few months later I was accepted into a paramedic school in Denver, Colorado. So I packed MY VAN with all my worldly possessions: skis, mountain bike, guitar and headed west. One of my classmate was a fun-loving skier and mountain biker and we began dating. At the end of the program the American government gave us a choice: get married or split up and never see one another again. We chose to get married. And as it happened this woman was the daughter of a millionaire and owned a condo at the base of B-Lift at the Copper Mountain Ski Resort. Before I knew it, I was living the exact life of the guy in Aspen Extreme. The only down side to that was that my marriage ended up the same way as his did…. Dam Secret!

Anyhow, like I said that is only one example of a whack of crazy events that have occurred to me that make me believe the Law of Attraction actually works. If the Law of Attraction does work though, the important thing is to remember how you structure your thoughts. If your thoughts are always negative, then it is negative things that will be drawn to you. Example: if you always worry about having “no money”, then “no money” is what will always be attracted to you. So be sure to keep your thoughts positive.

However, even if the Law of Attraction is real, I don’t believe it can function independently. If you sit on the couch all day watching exercise videos, eating potato chips, and visualizing yourself as being trim and fit, it’s not going to happen. In order for the Secret to work, you need to put yourself in a position where it can access you. Taking a quote from religion, you could say “God helps those that help themselves”.

I wasn’t sitting on the couch singing “I’m a Loser Baby, so why don’t you kill me?” with my housemate when the Swedish Medical Center in Denver, Colorado called me out of the blue. No “Swedish” called because I had built an extremely impressive resume with my experience and education, took the time to research paramedic training programs in the USA, and sent them a complete and well-written application. My girlfriend (future wife) wasn’t attracted to me because I was a negative, boring, loser, but because I was physically fit and have a love of life, skiing and mountain biking.

I put myself in a position where the Law of Attraction could make my Aspen Extreme lifestyle possible. But had I not done all the groundwork in preparation, nothing I wanted could have possibly been drawn to me.

So with that said, can I prove the Law of Attraction exists?

Well, I can’t “prove it”, but I do have some phenomenal examples of how it may be responsible for some of my successes. But regardless of whether it exists or not, I don’t believe it can work to its maximum efficiency if you don’t also apply your Vision, Energy, Attitude and Resolve.

Published in: on March 19, 2010 at 8:13 am  Leave a Comment  
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New Amazon.ca V.E.A.R. Review

I was just on my Amazon.ca webpage and noticed a new book review had appeared there. Obviously I like this one too given my decision to share it here!

“Don’t hesitate!! Pick up this fun book! This author maintains a down to earth and quirky tone throughout this easy read. As a self-development and optimism book junkie, I give this book an acclaimed thumbs up – without hesitation. The humour and “human touch” themes are infused with every poignant lesson. You feel the positivity radiating from the pages and are engaged with the author’s writing style. What’s also great is that everyone reading this will related to one or more of attributes (Vision, Energy, Attitude and Resolve). You’ll see where your strengths currently lie and start taking steps in those areas that may have been neglected or overlooked in the past. First step – Buy the book. Second step – Read it. Third step – Enjoy it. Fourth Step – you’ll just have to read it to find out what’s in store.

Great book Mr. Caldwell!” – Danielle Cardinal


Published in: on March 10, 2010 at 10:24 am  Leave a Comment  
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Energy (the external stuff)

There is really only one thing that I remember from my high school physics classes and that is Energy can neither be created or destroyed, it can only change its form. Potential Energy becomes Kinetic Energy which becomes heat and sound Energy, etc… Since I believe in “Life” Energy, how can the law of Energy conservation apply to this?

Okay, so first I believe that every living thing has an inexhaustible supply of Life Energy. Second I believe this Energy is continually emitted from all living things. Third I believe in the Law of Conservation of Energy (Energy can’t be created or destroyed, only changed in form). My first experience with the application of this phenomenon came well before I ever had any idea about V.E.A.R. It was back when I was running on the high school track team. I was an average to possibly a little below-average runner back then. Practices were tiring and labourious. I wanted to run better, but I just wasn’t improving. I decided that one summer I would train in earnest and return to high school the next Fall and surprise all my coaches. But my summer evening training sessions weren’t any better or more productive than my high school practices. That is until I went on vacation in Parry Sound with my parents. Back in Hamilton, I ran on the concrete sidewalks or asphalt roads beside all the brick houses. There was nothing living anywhere around me. But in Parry Sound I ran on the trails and back country gravel roads. There I was surrounded by trees, plants, wildlife, insects. Life was all around me and I can still remember the feeling of being able to run forever. I cruised up and over the hills, the flats were effortless, I felt like I could run forever. Looking back now I believe it was the transfer of life Energy that gave me the extra Energy to run.

But I know there are skeptics everywhere who probably think that is was the cleaner air that gave me the ability to run longer. So I have more proof! Have you ever been to a large sporting event? Here in Canada, hockey is the sport of preference. What happens when the home team scores? Everyone jumps to their feet and cheers. Regardless of the team you are cheering for, how do you physically feel after that happens. Personally I feel incredibly energized. All at once 20,000 people leap to their feet, cheer, and release a HUGE dose of their internal Life Energy into the environment. There is no way of not absorbing some of it.

The same is true for every running race I have ever participated in. At the start of the race I am surrounded by hundreds of other runners all amped up and emitting life Energy. You can literally feel the Energy coming off all the other runners and if you have the ability to see a person’s aura, I bet it’s not too tough to visualize.

And then there are the one-on-one interactions. Most of us know somebody with whom after we spend 10 or 15 minutes interacting, we find ourselves absolutely exhausted. Those people are Energy sponges. They don’t give you Energy, rather they suck the life Energy right out of you. Conversely, there are people who have the opposite effect. I’ve already written about Ray Zahab and his amazing feats. A guy who can run across a continent with barely any breaks obviously has a ton of available life Energy. And after spending 10 minutes speaking with Ray, you too will feel so energized that you may even be willing to consider running across a desert yourself. Ray is an extreme example, but I’m sure we all know people who leave us feeling more energized after spending just a short amount of time with them.

Life Energy is all around us. We just have to open ourselves up to its availability. I’ve used it countless times. I’ve raced marathons without training and people don’t know how I did it. It was simple, I just used the life Energy that was all around me. In fact, this week I’m using this technique all the time. This is my first Spring of tapping maple trees for maple syrup. I tapped 140 trees on the side of a big hill. I underestimated how much sap each tree would produce and find myself making countless trips up and down this hill, through the deep snow, carrying full two full 5-gallon (40 pound) pails. Two days ago I did this nonstop for 3 hours. I was so focused on getting the job done I didn’t even take a break to eat or drink anything.

But I don’t need any food or drink Energy because Energy is all around me. So not only is there that stuff inside you, but it exists all around you as well. You just have to open yourself up and drink it all in.

Published in: on March 9, 2010 at 9:02 am  Leave a Comment  
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