“Who’s Bad”

21 04 2010

January 8, 1988 was an interesting day.  It was the last day of the first week back at school in the Powers’ household after the Christmas holiday.  The world was a week into the Soviet Union’s new economic reform called perestroika.  The Dow Jones lost 140 points or 6.5% in a mini-crash closing at 1911.31. (wow – 1911.31 – it’s now cresting 11000)  The single most important thing to me from that day was the release of a single by an artist you may have heard of.  His name was Michael Jackson and the song is ‘Man in the Mirror’.  Quincy Jones commented Michael Jackson was looking to add an anthem to his follow-up to Thriller, a project which would eventually become his 7th studio album entitled Bad.  Jackson was looking to have a song which would inspire and be a call to arms for his fans to add value to their lives and to the world.  For me as an impressionable 12-year-old Michael Jackson fan – I just liked the song.  It wasn’t my favorite though.  I always gravitated to his more up tempo songs.  The Way You Make Me Feel, Bad, Dirty Diana, and Sooth Criminal were all on that album.  In fact, it was the first album in history to have its first 5 releases hit #1 and the only album ever to have 10 of its 11 tracks released chart in the top 10.  However, Man in the Mirror didn’t hit me till later in life.  Maybe I simply did not understand the significance of the lyrics.

“I’m starting with the man in the mirror.  I’m asking him to change his ways.  And no message could have been any clearer.  If you want to make the world a better place take a look at yourself and make a change.”  Why couldn’t I have learned the power of this statement at 12?  Or 22?  Or 32?  It’s not like I haven’t had opportunity.  My faults and flaws are clearly on display for all to see and have been as long as I have been around.  At 12 I could write it off as being twelve.  At 22 – well nuff said.  At 32 it was a little more difficult however I was still well head of the success curve for my age so it could be chalked up to stress or pressure or coping.  The fact of the matter is this; I haven’t really had to “take a look at (my)self and make a change” .  I have been able to continue entrenching my weaknesses as I have made excuses or blamed the result of my weakness on others or other situations.  It has been harder and harder to look at the man in the mirror as I climb Dream Mountain as I have grown very aware the extra weight I carry up the mountain is not the supplies which will help my dreams come true but rather the weight I carry is the excess baggage of not having “changed my ways”.  The ascension of Dream Mountain and the decisions my wife and I have made over the last 7 months have removed all excuses as to why I carry the extra weight except for one – the man in the mirror.  As we prepare to climb to Base Camp 2, although the path of the climb may have been altered a bit, the extra weight I carry needs to be removed.  I “want to make the world a better place” therefore I will continue to “look at (my)self and make a change”.   Would I change how these years and experiences have unfolded?  No.   Would I do it all differently?  No.  If I were to do things differently I wouldn’t have the wealth of experiences I do now.  It seems to me leading others to change or managing people through change is one thing but managing the change in my life is a whole other story.  Managing the change in my life takes a constant awareness of what and who is in the mirror.  How easy do you find it to look in the mirror?  What do you say to your reflection?   

I’ve heard it said we are all creative, resourceful, and whole and that I have all of the tools to make the wholesale adjustments needed to be the best me possible.  To be the man God created me to be.  It seems to me the only person who, in the past, has not bought into that vision is me.  Maybe I’ve thought it would be too hard, maybe I haven’t had to try, and maybe I haven’t wanted to?  It is hard, I am trying, and I do want to.  I’m starting with the man in the mirror and I’ve asked him to change his ways.  No message could be any clearer.  I want to make the world a better place.  So, I have taken a look at myself and agreed to make a change.


Where’s the game?

29 03 2010

“I want to be a firefighter, figure skater, singer, and a crane operator.”  My 3 year old son understands in the current age of career and work experience – diversity is the mother of prevention.  Prevention from a life of what if’s, when we were’s, and wish I would have’s.  At 3 he believes he can do all of these things and as parents we seem to encourage his ideas and dreams by saying things like, “you can do anything son” or “that sounds fun”.  When does this change?  At some point we start to encourage and guide our children and ourselves away from the I can do anything attitude of our childhood and more towards a make up your mind and be responsible type of positioning.  What happened to us?  Was it the disappointment of our first attempt and failure at following a dream?  Is too much riding on where we are now that to leave the comfort of the day-to-day rhythm is too daunting?  Are we embarrassed to start talking about our dreams and aspirations?  Have we no one in our lives who is willing to step up to our sides and walk with us as we finally start living happily and wholly rather than as a reasonable hand drawn facsimile of our best selves?  I don’t know when things change however I am convinced we can change it back.  We can take back the childhood wonder we gave up and build the life of our dreams.  In fact, I’m going back to my childhood for the wisdom to move forward.

Growing up my mother was the consummate list maker.  In fact you could walk into to her home today and find countless numbers of lists posted to the fridge, countertops, and side tables.  This seemed to keep the Lithium dosages to a minimum.  These lists seemed to keep everything under control and ensured all was well through the day.  My father was a budgeter.  He would have a budget, add to the budget, pour over the budget; maybe those budgets were his lists in disguise.  All of that to say – I have a reason to HATE lists.  Maybe you’re not like me but if my parents did it, for most of my life that was enough reason for me NOT to do it.  I mean really – how many of us wanted to be just like our parents?  Not me!  But funny enough I think we may share a name for a reason.  The older I get the smarter they get.  Weird.  So in the spirit of honouring our parents I look to my mother’s lists for inspiration.  The first step in living my dreams is to write them down.  In fact, if you walk into my house today my 3 month, 6 month, 9 month, and 12 month goals are front and center on the fridge.  My daughter’s colouring and our real estate agents magnet have taken a side stage position for the goals I have set.  As a matter of fact, my wife and I have looked at that list for 2 weeks since it went up.  The list of goals has become almost like a mantra to realizing our successes and dreams.   We have been able to check off 4 different smaller stepping-stones in the ascension of Dream Mountain.  You see my mother taught me if I wrote down my goals and worked daily to stepping slowly and doggedly towards each smaller goal the big picture gets completed with each little check mark.  You are reading the second check mark now.

In 1986, Rob Lowe and Patrick Swayze starred in a “blockbuster” of a movie called Youngblood.  It was a coming of age story of a hockey player (Lowe) and his team.  As an 11-year-old hockey goalie this movie was the best.  My father tolerated the film with me but a funny thing happened on the way to his kiddie movie slumber.  In a scene which would impact my life unlike any other, the coach of the Mustangs (Lowe’s team) screams at Lowe from the bench, “Dean, where’s the game?”  As Lowe looks over to his coach the coach puts his fingers to his temples.  The game clearly is in your head.  If I had a dollar for every time my father screamed at me from the stands in my hockey games, in the kitchen of my childhood home, or on the other end of a March 2000 phone call from my office, “where’s the game”, the realization of my dreams would be much easier.  But imagine the impact this one small scene had.  24 years later the movie starring Rob Lowe and featuring the guy from Dirty Dancing and a young Keanu Reeves with a really bad French accent is the engine that drives my dream realization.  The key to my father’s insight is visualization.  I have taken to seeing my dreams coming true in my mind.  The talent, determination, and drive needed to be successful in the new world I’m entering is already at my fingertips.  I have everything I need and as I visualize success in my mind and I walk closer and closer to the goal.  The goal for me is not the end but the beginning.  Not the achievement or completion of the goal but the active participation in the world of small business ownership.  What is your dream?  What goals do you have as the stepping-stones to realization?  Are you visualizing yourself winning?  Where’s the game?

For me, the combination of childlike belief and parental wisdom has been the key to living my dreams.  Whether it’s a firefighter, figure skater, crane operator, or real estate mogul I believe anything I set my mind to I can achieve.  Heck, if I’m going to tell my kids they can do anything they choose I’m going to start telling myself the same thing.  We deserve that don’t we?  I mean if we’re not going to believe in us – who will?  However, the words and ways of my parental experience ring loudly for me.  Write it down.  Read the lists and adjust them as needed.  Visualize the success and it becomes a reality.  I am so glad I moved out of my parent’s house when I did.  The longer I’m out of their house the smarter they become.  What can you do today to live your dreams?