Perfect Perspective

In New York City a journalist was tasked with interviewing two men. One was a criminal. He abused drugs, was in and out of jail his whole life, and was cold stony broke. The other, quite the opposite. He was a wealthy man, loved by his entire community and had a beautiful family he cherished.

They only had one similarity, they were brothers.

When the newspaper owner heard about these two men, he had to understand immediately how two brothers, who grew up in the same home, with virtually identical genetics, could live such completely different lives.

So when the journalist finally sat down with the two brothers they began discussing their childhood. It turned out that their father was also a criminal. He was the cause of incredible pain throughout their home. He abused drugs, his wife, and his two sons. Rick, who was in the middle of serving time for armed robbery, blamed his father for setting a terrible example.

When asked, how did your life turn out this way? Rick replied,

“With a father like mine, how could it turn out any other way?”

David, who was being recognized as a Forbes entrepreneur of the year, told a very similar story about his father. He agreed that he did in fact set a terrible example.

When asked, how did your life turn out this way? David replied,

“With a father like mine, how could it turn out any other way?”

Two sons, with the same genetics, the same childhood, the same abusive father and the same answer went on to live completely different lives. One, repeating the blue print laid out by his father. The other, defying expectations by becoming the master, instead of the slave, to his circumstances.

Perspective image

I hope that this example illustrates the significance of how the perspective we choose can impact our lives. Everyday we have the opportunity to choose the lens in which we see our world. We can decide to live life through a disempowering lens as a victim. Or, we can put our foot down, and decide that I am the master of my thoughts, feelings, and behaviours and no matter how bad my situation gets, it’s in my power to turn it around.

This post was inspired by all of the years I spent living through a disempowering lens. In High School, I felt like a victim to the hand I was dealt. As a result I didn’t handle life’s challenges with grace and fortitude. But it’s crystal clear to me now that everything I experienced was par for the course. Heartbreak, feeling uncomfortable, failure, disappointment, loss, sadness, and so much more is common. In fact, I now believe that it’s not only common, but necessary to live a full life.

My challenge is that our youth doesn’t yet see it that way. They, like me when I was their age, will make the same mistakes hoping that loss, heartbreak, and failure, is avoidable and other people should deal with it, not I.

That perspective doesn’t serve anybody. It doesn’t benefit the community, our families, and it especially does not serve the mental health of the individual themselves. Our perspective and in turn the lens we see life through has a tremendous impact on whether we feel like we’re healthy, stressed, struggling, or in a crisis.

For example, the student that sees his homework and tests as a challenge, is empowered to use the positive stress of his workload to get his assignments in on time. He’s driven by his deadlines to create a schedule that promotes healthy study habits, time for the gym and for his family and friends.

That’s not to say that he’ll never feel overwhelm or be disappointed in his grades, but it does mean that he’s willing to accept those emotions and outcomes as part of the process. His perspective is that the challenges that he faces in his life and in school are stretching him to grow. And based on my experience being and working with students, a focus on growth, is the perfect perspective to have.

On the other hand, we often see students who’s mental health suffer because of the lens in which they view their studies. Every quiz, test and assignment is a burden. They feel overwhelmed easily, succumb to stress and withdraw themselves from their educational experience. These individuals have a disempowering perspective on what it means to be a student and as a result experience downward momentum in their health.

I want to challenge our youth to avoid the mistakes that I’ve made in the past. To instead be like David from our story above. To see for themselves that difficulty, disappointment, and disaster are inevitable parts of life and that we should focus on the solution rather than the problem. These two shifts in perspective are a great place to start.

Problems vs. Challenges

One of the most disempowering, yet common, uses of language between adults and youth alike is the word “problems”. We need to wipe that word from our language patterns and replace is with the word “challenges”. Problems are disempowering and it overwhelms you. Rick from our example above, saw his upbringing as a problem. Problems are often out of your control and therefore he felt like a victim to his circumstances.

David on the other hand saw his situation as a challenge. Challenges are within your control to solve. Challenges you meet head on and you rise up to them and overcome them. Whatever stands in the way from you accomplishing your goal is not a problem, it’s a challenge that you’re ready to get after.

You are not the mistakes of your past

Our culture is obsessed with success. And as a result, our youth are often misguided and misinterpret what it means to “fail”. Today, we see mistakes, setbacks, and disappointments as catastrophe. For example, a student that is used to 90% on all their tests comes home with a 79%. Along with that 79% is a bruised ego and slash at their internal belief systems. That 79%, 60%, even 40% or less for that matter doesn’t represent failure, it represents opportunity. It’s a wake up call that I need to work harder, prioritize better, seek help and take better care of my health so I can be sharper. It took me far too long to recognize that my mistakes are not setbacks, they are truly the set ups for my future successes. Everything that happens to you, the good, the bad and the ugly, every experience, is an asset.

Rick believed that growing up in a broken home was a mistake. His father set a bad example and screwed him up. David however, is the perfect example of gleaning lessons from his past. His and Rick’s home were the same, but David’s perspective was shifted. Every mistake, setback, and disappointment his father represented, he used it as an example of what not to do.

So as you look at your own life as I have my own, and search within yourself for the beliefs and perspectives you hold, know that you are not the mistakes of your past, you are the resources and the capabilities you’ve gleaned from it. As soon as you make that shift in your life, anything bad that’s happened to you is ultimately your greatest asset.

My mental health made a dramatic shift when I made that choice consciously. I stopped seeing everything that happened to me as a problem, and instead a challenge testing my character. I stopped perpetuating my victim and disempowering mindsets and made the conscious decision to use my crisis with mental health as my greatest asset.

Now I can say without a doubt that I wouldn’t be half the man I am today if I didn’t experience depression and anxiety. I wouldn’t know how good it feels to be confident. I wouldn’t have the empathy and passion I now have to help other people. And most of all, I wouldn’t be able to type here today that I know with every fibre of my being there is no level, no matter how low, that you can’t come back from. That is of course, if you chose the perfect perspective.

Do This.

  1. In your everyday communication, replace the word problem with challenge. You will feel more in control and excited to tackle those challenges head on.
  2. Embrace your past. Use mistakes, setbacks, and disappointments as opportunities to learn rather than for reasons to dwell and feel bad. Take those lessons with you in your life and use them as your greatest advantage.

Ps. If supporting mental health is important to you, I’m currently raising money for Canada’s largest youth led summit on mental health. We need your support! Please donate here or share this link with someone who would like to support mental health in Canada.

Till next time, stay on the offensive. Aggressively pursue a better version of yourself. And remember what Jim Rohn said, “You cannot change the destination of your life overnight but you can change your direction.”

– J

Out.

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Garbage In, Garbage Out

When I think about mental health, I often, if not always, compare it directly to physical health. How we take care of our bodies should be a leading indicator of how we feel mentally.

Consider some of the worlds highest performing athletes: what do you think they put in their bodies?

World class athletes consistently consume high quality macro and micro nutrients. Foods that are nutritionally rich and hydrating with vitamins, minerals, essential amino acids, and healthy fats, to ensure that their bodies predictably operate at peak performance. These individuals who are eating better will inevitably jump higher, skate faster, lift more weight, and recover more quickly from rigorous training than their competitors.

High Performing Athletes

This level of vigilance about consuming only the highest quality nutrients and avoiding tempting junk food, while difficult, is one of their greatest advantages.

I strongly believe that there’s so much that we can learn from how athletes, and healthy eaters, treat their bodies that will impact the way that we focus on our own mental health.

But first, imagine the opposite of the athlete and healthy eater, Jack the Junk food addict.

Jack doesn’t pay too much attention to what he puts into his body. He lacks discipline and as a result he caves frequently into his cravings. Because he eats so much fast food, he’s constantly consuming refined sugars, unhealthy trans and saturated fats, high sodium foods, and processed – low nutritional value, empty calorie – junk!

Junk food image

But wait… We can’t forget the sugar loaded sodas and juice concentrates he grew up loving, too! And with all of that, it still remains a mystery to Jack as to why he has low energy. Why he always wakes up feeling groggy, sluggish and mentally foggy. Why every day he has to rely on coffee and stimulants just to make it through his work day. Why he’s lost his zest for life.

Let’s help remove the blinders of the oh-so obvious mystery perplexing Jack and junk food eaters alike.

Garbage in, garbage out. 

How could we expect anything other than to feel like garbage if the only thing we put in our body is garbage!

We can’t.

And if what we put in our bodies unequivocally impacts our physical performance, how could we ignore that what we put in our minds, our thoughts, and our beliefs about ourself and our circumstances, will also clearly effect our mental health and performance.

We can’t.

There are multiple pillars that drive a healthy mind, but I fundamentally believe one of the most powerful and reliable is focusing on a consistently healthy diet of external inputs into our minds. In almost identical fashion to our physical health, we either set ourselves up for resilience, health, and joy, or anxiety, stress, and unhappiness based on our chosen mental diets.

Here is our greatest challenge to ensuring a proper mental diet.

Our biggest challenge is that controlling what our brain consumes is especially difficult. On a day to day basis, so much of what we take in is unconscious. Although it’s true that we can eat without thinking, it’s easier to pay attention to what we put in our bodies because food doesn’t leap into our mouths!

We need an extra level of vigilance to prevent our brains from absorbing irrelevant, counterproductive or downright destructive input. It’s a never-ending battle to be selective and stand guard against any information that will derail your mental health.

To understand this challenge at our cores, the only thing we need to remember is that the brain has only one agenda: survival. It’s always watching for signs of “lack and attack.” We’re programmed to seek out the negative from our jobs, studies and our lives.

Unfortunately we can’t change our DNA, but we can change our behaviour. We can teach our mind to look beyond the negative by protecting and feeding it positivity.

Now, please enjoy  2 focuses and 6 actionable take-aways that you can apply, today.

Associations

“Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.” – Amy Poehler

I’ll start with your associations because I believe it is the simplest and quickest thing you can change to make an impact on your mental health.

Over the past decade, researchers have made fascinating discoveries about a phenomenon called “clustering”. They found that behaviours, attitudes, and health outcomes tend to form in social clusters. The people around you even even affect how you sleep, the food that you eat, and how much you save. This of course, can have both positive and negative repercussions.

On the negative front, bad behaviours and outcomes such as smoking, obesity, loneliness, depression, divorce, and drug use tend to grow in social clusters. If your friends smoke, you probably will, too. Likewise, positive things such as happiness and positive social behaviour can spread within groups. If you want to get rich, you should spend more time with rich people. If you want to lose weight, it’s practical to hangout with people who spend a lot of time at the gym. Social contagion, as the researchers call it, is a powerful force that you can now use to your advantage. Use these tips to level up your squad and make a positive impact on your mental diet.

  1. Play Sports- Join that intramural league. Visit that ping pong group. Get that golf membership. By putting yourself in a competitive position, especially in team sports, not only will you learn more about yourself, but you’ll have the opportunity to connect and be vulnerable with new people. Competition is one of those unique scenarios we don’t get enough in life. It makes you elevate your game, prepare and work harder, and interact with people who’re doing the same.
  2. Volunteer- This should be your first move if you’re someone who feels like you’re surrounded by negative influences. Volunteers by nature are spirited, positive people. They are givers. People that are generous enough to put others before themselves are the type of people we should strive to spend more time with. When you meet people who are trying to make a big difference in the world, it makes a big difference in yours.
  3. You don’t need to drop all of your negative friends – Not only is the conflict associated with burning bridges not worth it and disempowering for both parties, there are many more appropriate ways to better your associations. Instead of focusing on spending less time with negative people, simply decide today that you will spend more time with positive people. By proxy, you will have less time for negative associations and you’re much more likely to maintain that relationship. Think add, not subtract.

Imagine how much better your life would be if you got better people into your social network. Choose to surround yourself with the people who have the attitudes, beliefs, and behaviours in congruency with the person you’re committed to becoming.

Personal Junk Filter

“The book you don’t read won’t help.” – Jim Rohn

The junk food equivalent today for what we put into our minds sounds like this: negative news, unrealistic body images on Instagram, and fake entrepreneurs on social media flashing fancy watches, cars, and beautiful women. Where the news equals a can of Coca Cola, Instagram equals those fried funnel cakes people love, and fake entrepreneurs selling $30,000 mastermind courses equals a Big Mac.

Exposed to all of this garbage, we can’t realistically expect to constantly feel positive emotions and thought patterns about ourselves and the world. It’s all too negative or revolves around what we’re missing. How much better life could be, not how good it is. Just like the body needs quality nutrition in order to sustain your positive mental health long-term, you need to focus on quality inputs that will lead you in the right direction.

I’ll share with you what I do to safeguard my mind. But I warn you, I have a rigorous mental diet. You’ll want to adjust this to your own preferences, but it’s worked beautifully for me over the last 4 years.

  1. Avoid the news– As you may have guessed, I don’t read or watch any news whatsoever. Not only is 90% of news the most scandalous, negative, and disturbing things that are taking place in the world right now, virtually none of it has any bearing on my personal goals, dreams, and ambitions anyways. While most people wade through hours of irrelevant garbage that hampers their attitude and dampers their spirits, if you really need the news, set up an RSS feed through Google or another provider. That way you will get the news that’s relevant to your primary field of interest in less than 15 minutes a day.
  2. Enroll in “Commuters U”– It’s not enough to eliminate negative inputs. We also need to flush out all the bad by filling up on all the good. “Commuters U” may have been one of the most transformational habits I’ve ever adopted. It stands for Commuters University and means that any time you’re moving – whether it’s going for a walk, riding your bike, or driving/ taking transit – you pull out a book, podcast, or some educational tool, and start learning. Think about it… How long is your commute? 10 minutes? 30 minutes? 1 hour? Regardless of how long, the time we spend commuting every day is a prime opportunity to fill ourselves up with quality mental nutrition. Over the last year I’ve developed new skills in sales, leadership, relationship building, and maintaining a positive attitude in tough times, all because I took advantage of Commuters U. You should taste multiple different influencers and see what you like but here’s a short list of some of my go-to’s: Jim Rohn, Les Brown, Gary Vaynerchuck, Tim Ferris, Jocko Willink, Tony Robbins, Napolean Hill, and many more!
  3. Remember the three action items from associations– As we’re now well aware, one of the easiest and most effective ways to adopt new behaviours and attitudes is to hang out with the people who already have them. Therefore, if you want to develop a better junk filter and protect your mind from the garbage that’s constantly pulling at your attention, remember the three action steps from associations; play sports, volunteer, and think add not subtract. If your peer group spends less time watching the news, you will too. If they subscribe to Commuters U and focus only on positive, educational, and uplifting inputs, so will you!

Do this. 

That is a lot of information to chew on… See what I did there? But information is not enough to impact your mental diet and as a result, your mental health. You can however, make the choice, no matter how challenging and dire your circumstances look, to take one step in a positive direction, today.

Choose 1, yes, only 1, of the 6 takeaways above and apply it today. Whether you start volunteering, avoid the news, or pick up a new book for your commute tomorrow, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you make the decision to do 1. 1 will lead to another, and soon, your mental diet will be just as clean in comparison to the foods Olympians eat.

Make your mental diet a priority right now! Because after all, garbage in, is garbage out.

Ps. If supporting mental health is important to you, I’m currently raising money for Canada’s largest youth led summit on mental health. We need your support! Please donate here or share this link with someone that would like to support mental health in Canada. 

Till next time, stay on the offensive. Aggressively pursue a better version of yourself. And remember what Jim Rohn said, “You cannot change the destination of your life overnight but you can change the direction”

 

*BONUS* – Profile Of A Champion: Resilience

I love reading about war and history. And because of that, I love reading about soldiers. To me soldiers represent the pinnacle of what it means to be a champion. And two weeks ago, when I was listening to an audio of the book “18 Platoon“, I was struck with the realization that I was missing the most critical component to what makes someone a champion.

Soldiers, throughout history, have experienced life’s most stressful tests of the human spirit. There is no other group whom work harder, face more adversity, and have made a bigger impact to the degree of freedom and security we experience today than soldiers. As I was listening to the Jocko Podcast, I understood that it would be foolish not to take the time to study and learn from a group of people who’re literally willing to die for what they believe in.

In “18 Platoon”, Sydney Jary, commander of 18 Platoon, shared his lessons learned about combat and life. I’ve been so inspired by what he wrote that I haven’t been able to get it off my mind for weeks. This bonus profile is a direct result of what Sydney wrote in his book,

“The personal characteristics which go to make a good infantry soldier… I would suggest firstly, sufferance, the ability to suffer. Without which, one could not survive.”

I had to pause the audio. In that moment I was instantly brought back to my thirteen year old self. At thirteen, I remember travelling across Canada competing at the National level of trampoline. In 2008, I faced off with athletes in an under seventeen category. Meaning, the majority of the competitors were fifteen or older. At thirteen, I managed to finish ninth in Canada! My parent’s were proud, my coach was proud, and my gym was proud.

I, was devastated.

I hated myself for what I thought represented a miserable personal failure. I quit trampoline because I believed I didn’t have what it took to win.

I, was right.

It’s easy to make the excuse that I was only thirteen and I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. But, without a critical eye on ourselves, how can we get better?  While listening to those words, I realized that at thirteen I really didn’t have what it took to win. I lacked the resilience, work ethic, and the ability to suffer like a soldier. My competitors were more mentally prepared, spent more time working on their skills, and suffered through more gruelling workouts than I did.

I, was soft.

This was a serious epiphany. Instantly, I understood that although I’m not a soldier, and I won’t lose or literally die on a battlefield, if I don’t develop sufferance I will lose on the battlefield of life.

Lacking resilience has been one of my biggest vulnerabilities. More resilience could have kept me training trampoline. More resilience could have prevented my depression. With more resilience you and I would both be exponentially more skillful and successful. And because of that I’ve become obsessed with developing more girt and mental fortitude. To be a champion, we need to be willing to suffer, face more adversity, and persevere longer and more intensely than anyone of our competitors. If we can do that, we’ll dominate the marketplace.

I then began to ask myself who I know that has grit and mental fortitude? Who do I know that’s willing to face more adversity and persevere longer than anyone of their competitors? Who do I know that’s dominating the marketplace of business and life? Who do I know that’s developed the ability to suffer?

Ah yes, Kevin.

Animalia - Portrait

Back in 2015, our Entrepreneurship class at Georgian College had a weekly speaker series. That year we had over a dozen speakers teach us about business and life. To this day, I’ve never seen any of those people again, except one, Kevin Rempel. As a 2013 World Champion and 2014 Sochi Paralympic bronze medalist in sledge hockey, Kevin is one of the greatest examples of overcoming adversity I’ve ever heard. He stood in front of that class in 2015, and I’ve never looked at adversity the same again.

In 2006, while pursuing his passion for Motorcross, Kevin crashed, hard.

Paralyzed, he started his journey to learn to walk again at age twenty three. Adding to this, Kevin had to deal with his father, Gerry, who also was living in a wheelchair. Gerry had become a paraplegic himself after falling from a tree in a deer hunting accident. Only one year into Kevin’s recovery, Gerry took his own life in July 2007.

While mourning the loss of his father, battling depression, and looking for inspiration in his life, Kevin found the sport of sledge hockey. He immediately set his sights on making team Canada and playing in the Paralympics. As you’re well aware, he did just that (you can find the video of his journey here).

When I heard Kevin’s story for the first time two years ago I was inspired. But, today, he’s become a model that we can all follow and strive towards. He’s since been featured around the world on TSN, BBC Sport, and CTV. He’s become an author, a keynote speaker on mental health and building resilience, an advocate for the sport of sledge hockey, and the entrepreneur behind an incredible business with a big mission the Sledge Hockey Experience. He’s become a champion.

As an entrepreneur who’s extremely busy building a business, I was excited to extract from Kevin’s stories a practical philosophy that we can implement immediately. His life has, and continues to serve, as an example of both why we need to develop resilience and how we can start, today.

Be The Hero Of Your Own Movie

Wouldn’t it be nice if everything we wanted in life came to us with no effort? Oh, how nice life would be if I didn’t have to struggle and put in effort to accomplish my goals!

Wrong.

On a surface level, that may sound appealing, but anyone that believes that is delusional.

Imagine you’re at the movie theatre. When the movie starts, the main character is born. He then proceeds to grows up in a rich family, meet the girl of his dreams, build a big business with no challenge or headaches, and then grows old and dies with the love of his life at his side. Do you think that would get many Oscar nominations? NO. If we didn’t fall asleep halfway in, we’d be asking, where’s the drama, where’s the adversity, where is the hero’s journey?

We all know that we’re not drawn to stories of overnight success! In fact, often we despise them. We’re drawn in to the story of the underdog. We’re excited to see someone come back from failure and from persist through adversity. And if that’s true for movies, and real life examples of individuals like Oprah, Hellen Keller, and Thomas Edison, why would that be any different for you?

As I’ve watched Kevin over the past few years, I’ve realized that he embraces the hero’s journey. He gets joy and pride out of being the underdog. He’s shown me that cultivating the mindset of becoming the hero of our own movie is the first mindset shift we need to make in order to embrace resilience. We need to not only embrace the fact that our story will and should have obstacles, but we need to start to appreciate that it’s the only thing that makes our story worth telling.

Kevin remembers the exact moment when he made this distinction for himself. He remembers that in extreme sports it was part of the culture to always get back up after they fell hard. When riders in Motorcross would fall, they would bounce back, and take pride in their grit and mental strength.

Kevins bruise.png

He shared that the moment he broke his back, he knew he wanted to make a comeback. He knew he wanted to be the hero of his own movie. Despite all of the pain, the screaming people, and the thoughts rushing through his head, one of the first things he said was,

“Chris, you better be filming this.”

Knowing that obstacles are what make stories great, it’s critical to ask yourself  are you avoiding obstacles, or are your embracing them? Are you forcing yourself into uncomfortable places, or are you shying away and holding yourself back? Are you becoming the hero of your own movie, or are you trying to live a tale of timid comfort?

Kevin believes that being the hero of your own movie is as simple as being the shy person who’s willing to speak up. Being the irresponsible spender who’s willing to invest and save. Or, being the overweight couch potato who says enough is enough and gets into the gym and starts working out. Whatever the trials and tribulations of your life, however small or large the adversity, embrace that test. In those moments, take the time to detach and step back. As you observe yourself confronting challenges, remind yourself that the hero of your movie would courageously step into the unknown, and step up as a champion.

Accept responsibility

Masters of their circumstances never blame or make excuses. The champion knows that everything they experience in life is a result of who they are and what they’ve done. They always take responsibility for the good and the bad. And if you want to cultivate resilience, moving yourself closer and closer towards what it takes to become a champion, you need to take ownership, too.

Late last year, Kevin experienced yet another devastating obstacle. In the first week of December, he was checking on his Sledge Hockey trailer parked at the Mastercard Centre in Etobicoke. It had only been a couple of weeks since he had last used the trailer, but as he drove up, he noticed the lock was broken. Stunned, he quickly got out of his car, threw open the door, and found all of his equipment gone. In a split second he went from working passionately on his dream of educating people about Sledge Hockey, to being burdened with over five thousand dollars of stolen equipment.

He was cheated.

It was unfair.

Arguably, it wasn’t his fault.

Or was it?

“You must own everything in your world. There is no one else to blame.” – Jocko Willink

For most, including myself, this degree of adversity, this early into the stages of any business, would have taken us right out of the game. It would have been easy to blame, make excuses, and believe that the world was conspiring against us. In times of crisis it’s natural for us to be overwhelmed by emotions. But, the difference between the champion and everyone else, isn’t that  they don’t feel anger, frustration, and heartbreak, they feel all of the same emotions to their fullest range, the difference is that they interpret them differently!

sledge-hockey-gear-stolen.png

Kevin accepted immediately that the trailer being broken into was his fault. He shouldn’t have left it there so long. He shouldn’t have parked it where there was no surveillance. It was his fault and he took ownership of that. Accepting responsibility allowed him to focus his energy on being a victor, rather than a victim.

Not only did he immediately start working on a solution, he was able to use the experience to bring massive awareness to sledge hockey. He documented the experience (the video is inspiring), showing his positive mental attitude and how people can be resilient in the face of adversity.

His video got hundreds of shares and over 10,000 views. Again, he was being the hero of his own movie. He not only continued to help advocate for the sport he loved and find a way to get new equipment, but he further became an example for others on how to react when confronted with challenge.  He proved that the champion doesn’t blame or make excuses, they accept responsibility and leverage their resilience to keep growing.

Never Give Up

Who knows where I would be today if I would have persisted in Trampoline. I could be competing on the world stage, in the Olympics, and representing our country. But, unfortunately, I will never know. Can you relate to not knowing?

Do you ever wonder what could, should, and would have been if you never gave up? I think about it all the time. Candidly, I’m emotionally overwhelmed every four years when I see the Olympics on T.V. I experience so much regret knowing that I had the potential, I just didn’t have the heart.

To this day, lacking resilience, or the ability to suffer, has been the biggest vulnerability in my character. From Trampoline, to experiencing depression in high school, to quitting my first business after only two years, I’ve only scratched the surface of my potential because I was never willing to persevere. It’s a sobering thought looking back on our lives, knowing that we had so much more energy, effort, and passion to give. I never want to feel that way again.

I want to challenge you to never feel that way about yourself, either. I want to challenge you to remind yourself of Shakespeare every time you feel like giving up,

“Let me embrace thee, sour adversity, for wise men say it is the wisest course.”  – William Shakespeare

Now it’s one thing to know that conceptually, but it’s another thing to put it into practice. Kevin has taught me through his experience that Shakespeare’s dead on the money. In July of 2007, Kevin’s father gave up. He took his own life. Kevin wanted to give up, too. He experienced a debilitating depression that was almost too much to cope with. But, Kevin found his strength. He knew giving up was never the right answer. No matter the pain, no matter the darkness, no matter how much he missed his dad, he wasn’t willing to give up.

Because of that experience, Kevin became stronger. As he faced more trials and tribulations, they became easier to overcome. He was developing resilience through his hardships. He began to embrace adversity, because as Shakespeare said, it is the wisest course.

Throughout our conversation, Kevin repeated more than once,

“Resilience comes from accepting challenge and adversity as a part of life. You need to go through tough times, you can only build it through experience, there’s no other way.”

Whether it’s the tears and calluses you’ll develop on your hands in the gym, the blow to your ego you’ll experience embarrassing yourself in public, or the depression you can’t shake from all the stressors of life, remember that what you’re going through is the path to your greatest self. It’s the path to what you deserve to have, what you deserve to do, and who you deserve to become. It’s the path to becoming a champion.

Imagine if Kevin gave up.

He never would have been able to hug his friends and family again…

He never would have been able to help the sport of sledge hockey, or those suffering from mental health challenges and depression…

He would never have been a world champion or Paralympian…

Kevin for kevins blog 2

The message is simple, you have the strength to win on the battlefield of life. But, it’s only you that can decide to remain resilient. Only you can decide if you’re willing to suffer, face more adversity, and persevere longer and more intensely than anyone of your competitors. Only you can decide to never give up.

So, never give up.

Ever.

Do This:

  1. Educate– Kevin has developed a resource available for anyone to use for free. Inside his 10 Commandments of Resiliency e-book, he outlines the tools, strategies, and philosophies he uses to build resilience that go far above and beyond what I can explain in one post. If you want access to those resources, you can download it here.
  2. Practice– Don’t let a lack of mental fortitude stand in the way between you and your goals. Use this post and Kevin’s e-book as working documents for developing resilience in your life. Start by developing the philosophy that you can become the hero of your own movie. When you’ve mastered that, come back and take notes on what it means to take responsibility for all of the obstacles you’re going through. And finally, if you ever feel like quitting, we’re here to help remind you that giving up is not an option.
  3. Share– I’ve never asked any of my readers to share a post before. However, I feel so strongly that this message, and Kevin’s story, could be the catalyst for so many people to overcome their greatest adversity. If you feel that this post can help anyone you know, please share, it would mean the world to me.

Till next time, stay on the offensive. Aggressively pursue a better version of yourself. And remember what Jim Rohn said, “You cannot change the destination of your life overnight but you can change the direction.”

-J

Out.

Profile Of A Champion: Sowing and Reaping

When I look back on my high school experience, Physics was disproportionately my least favourite class. I was completely disinterested and for that reason my grades suffered. I would be bored, I’d play on my phone, and I’d often fall asleep in class. I felt, like many students do, that Physics had no relevance in my life. If time is our most valuable asset, why was I wasting it learning about something I’d never use? What I failed to recognize at the time was that not only did the laws of Physics and the laws of nature matter, they were all that mattered.

Take Newton’s third law as an example. Newton’s third law describes the purpose of action and reaction in our experience. He said,

“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

He was able to demonstrate in Physics that the size of the force on one object would equal the size of the force on a second object. Therefore the greater force applied in the primary action, the greater force experienced as a reaction. On top of that, it’s implied that if no force is applied in the first place, there is no cause for any reaction or result of any kind.

Sitting in that Physics class I didn’t see the big picture. In fact, it wasn’t until I was introduced to Jim Rohn that I fully grasped what it meant to leverage this law. To me, Jim was world class at simplifying ideas. Jim said the exact same thing in a slightly different way. In this life changing video, he demonstrates the powerful operating system that all the champions and high performers live their lives through. To phrase Newton’s Law as Jim would,

“Whatever you sow, you shall reap.”

Now that made sense! If the farmer didn’t sow his seeds in the spring, he reaped no harvest in the fall. But, if the farmer sowed day and night throughout the spring and tended to the weeds through the summer, a full harvest would virtually always follow. When I looked at my life from the lens of sowing and reaping, instead of Physics, I understood why I wasn’t reaping good. Unlike the champions, I didn’t have the action habit. I wasn’t working hard.  I wasn’t consistently applying force towards the accomplishment of a goal. I wasn’t taking the action required to sow the seeds of my future success.

Candidly, I was an average student, an average athlete, and I felt very depressed. I tried to blame my teachers, my school, and I’m ashamed to say it, even my parents. I didn’t realize what was causing such dismal results until I started to meet people who were reaping good. Until, on a consistent basis, I was surrounded by winners. By people who were taking action, sowing seeds and as a result, were reaping the benefits that virtually always follow.

For example, many of the fellows in Venture for Canada have been leveraging this law to reap fantastic harvests in their lives for years! In the March 2017 selection day I was asked to help facilitate a room of finalists. In that room I met one of the most impressive young professionals I’d ever seen. She was sharp, witty, and gave off the impression she was a seasoned veteran in high-stakes environments. I had a gut feeling from our brief introduction that she would rock the day and that I would see her a few months later as a member of our cohort. I was right.

Sam Sproule Headshot

Highly influenced by her parents, Sam Sproule was born in Rockland, Ottawa. In 2016, she graduated from Acadia University with a Business Administration Degree, majoring in Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Unsatisfied with the impact she left at the school, she successfully ran for President of the Acadia Students’ union for the 2016-2017 year. While being responsible for the Unions $2.5 million operating budget, she also advocated for the needs of students to all three levels of government, as well as, to the University through the Board of Governors and Senate. If that wasn’t enough action already, Sam took on a honours research project that has now laid the foundation for a entrepreneurship-focused living space on campus at Acadia University. Impressive? Yes. Possible without the massive and dedicated action towards her goals? No.

As I got the opportunity to get to know Sam better, I learned two things.

  1. She is one of the most humble people I know. She has accomplished so much and yet I had to pry hard to get to the specifics of her wins.
  2. She is an impressive relationship builder. I could see in her story, woven together like beautiful poetry, the cause and effects of building deep and meaningful relationships.

Sam demonstrated to me that in the life of the champion, the 5 Laws of Sowing and reaping always play out. In this profile you’ll learn how to avoid the grips of regret while simultaneously squeezing as much as possible out of this short life.

Sowing and Reaping Applied

First: The law of sowing and reaping is negative. 

Thistle for blog

If you sow bad, you reap bad. This is extremely basic, but it’s important to cover the basics. If you plant thistle seeds, you don’t get pumpkins. If you’re like me at sixteen and you plant mental seeds of insecurity, you don’t get confidence. If you plant seeds of deception through lies, you don’t get trust. Or if you plant no seeds through procrastination, you don’t get the results that come from taking action! Remember, the law is negative.

Second: The Law of sowing and reaping is positive.

Pumpkins for blog

If you sow good, you reap good. If you plant pumpkin seeds, you won’t get thistles! And the more I learned about Sam, the more I realized she was planting pumpkin seeds. Her whole life she’s been sowing seeds of trust, generosity, and hard work. When she decided to return to Acadia in the 2016-2017 school year, she had already spent three years developing a broad network and deep relationships throughout campus.

Despite never been on the Students’ Representative Council and being considered an underdog in the race, Sam applied to run as president. Typically, having served as a member of the Council would be expected, especially for one applying to become President. However, Sam’s narrative emphasizes the importance of sowing good seeds of reputation.

Sam had worked at the Union information desk and the school bar. She was on 24/7 attending events and meeting people. All the while showing up in life as sincere, hard working, and genuinely prepared to advocate for the students she would represent. In the end, against all odds, she sowed good and as a result was well deserving in her presidential election.

Third: You do not reap what you sow. But rather, you reap much more than you sow. 

Reaping more than you sow for blog

This is where the law of sowing and reaping gets exciting. The key here is more. You don’t get back what you put out, you get back much more than you put out. It’s important to remember that again, the law works both positive and negative. On the negative side it says, if you sow to the wind, you get the whirlwind. I found that to be true. A few years of negative thinking, an idle body, and being in the wrong environment, projected me into years of anxiety and depression. The darkest days of my life taught me profound lessons about protecting my mind and the criticality of sowing good seeds.

On the positive side, it’s clear that when the farmer plants his seeds of corn, kale, or apple trees he reaps an abundant harvest 10x what he planted. He doesn’t get back one apple, he experiences the joy of sharing generations of apples with his family. The same law proved true in Sam’s University life.

All of the hard work leading up to being President of the Student Union payed off.  But, becoming president was just the start. Sam was given more opportunities than she had ever imagined. She began to represent and advocate for over 20,000 students while working with Students Nova Scotia as well as over 250,000 Federally with the Canadian Alliance of Student Association. Here, Sam continued to build her reputation of working hard for student advocacy. Along with her team, she met with Members of the Legislative Assembly, Members of Parliament , and Senators to discuss priorities for students on accessibility, affordability, and affecting policy. This alone should be a fantastic motivator for all of us knowing that we do in fact reap more than we sow. But, there’s more.

Not only did those experiences themselves plant new seeds of skills and confidence, it continued to build upon the foundation and credibility she had started years prior. Still a student at the time, she was additionally dedicating her entire year to a seventy page research paper. Her paper would highlight entrepreneurship on campus and argue the benefits of creating a space for students to collaborate informally on projects of passions. Here we see the third law play out again!

If we only reaped what we sowed, having the entrepreneurial residence on campus come to fruition, because of her paper, would be the end of the story. But, again, there is much more. If it wasn’t for the reputation she had built and for the seeds she had sown while creating her honours paper, we never would have met! Her professor was so impressed by her work ethic that he introduced Sam to the Atlantic Program Director for Venture for Canada. Now a member of Venture for Canada she is set up to continue to receive an abundant harvest for years to come.

Fourth: You reap what you sow, but…

Rain of parade gif for blog

One thing better than the truth is the whole truth… Here’s the whole truth. You could lose. There are times when no matter how many seeds you plant, no matter how many relationships you build, and no matter how hard you work it doesn’t pay off. Remember the farmer?

The farmer plants his seed in the spring, come summer he works ten-twelve hours a day, six-seven days a week. He has the character of a champion and come fall he’s got a beautiful crop. Not to mention, he deserves every bit of it. But, the day before he sends the combines into the field, a hail storm comes and beats all of his crop into the ground. Which means, he lost! He did nothing wrong. It’s just that kind of planet. Sometimes it will hail on your crop and rain on your parade. Sometimes you lose, that’s part of life. But…

Last: If you don’t sow, you don’t reap. 

empty wallet

The biggest mistake I made with the law of sowing and reaping is that I had lost so many times I gave up trying. Never give up sowing good seeds! If you don’t sow, you don’t reap. You don’t even have a chance! It’s a tough to come to grips with the fact that no matter how hard we work we could lose. But what a tragedy it would be to run through life never really giving yourself a shot? Imagine the regret knowing that at the end of your life you never sowed the seeds of the life you truly desired.

You never met the girl. You never did that one gig for free that could have blown up your career. You never learned that language that could have opened your life up to unlimited possibilities. Avoiding regret and living like a champion is simple, but not easy. Sam shared that no matter your path, hard work will always be respected and appreciated. Make a decision today that you will plant the seeds of the future you desire. Otherwise, you may not get another chance.

Do this. 

For many, including myself, the law of sowing and reaping may not be clear at first. Most people can understand that they’re not reaping extraordinary results, but it doesn’t mean they know why. If you’re still confused like I was for a long time about how this all applies, the answer could be in the same quote written a different way.

“Whatever you reap is what you’ve sown.”

Now the problem is clear, we can go to work on improving our lives right away! Whatever you reap is what you’ve sown. If you don’t like the results, who do you look up? Answer, whoever planted it! And where can you find who planted your crop? Answer, in the mirror!

  1. Go to the mirror– When fall comes around we need to go to the mirror. Who’s responsible for what’s showing up in our lives? Whether we like the harvest or not, we’re responsible for planting the seeds of our lives. We need to take ownership of everything we do, have, and become. If you’re ecstatic about an abundant harvest that you’ve reaped, good. Document what’s working and triple down! If you’re unimpressed with the few skinny carrots you’ve delivered at the end of the day, good. It’s an opportunity for you to be honest with yourself about your work ethic, commitment, and focus. Then, take ownership and make it happen.
  2. Know what you want- It’s critical to understand what you’re after. If you don’t know what you want and the direction you want to take, there’s a high probability you won’t plant enough seeds into one specific priority, to achieve anything of substance. The champion is willing to focus their energies into a specific goal for weeks, months, and even years. Getting clear on what you want will allow you to invest your energy wisely.
  3. Be like Sam- Sam is a champion. And with each champion that I’ve interviewed, it’s clear they’ve all sown and invested huge amounts of time and resources into building strong relationships. If you’re going to remember one thing from this post, it’s to intentionally plant, and cultivate, deep personal and professional relationships. Almost all of Sam’s results, from becoming President of the Student Union, working with Governments, being introduced to Venture for Canada, and even to her current employment, has been the direct result of a relationship she had developed. Be like Sam and start sowing today!

Till next time, stay on the offensive. Aggressively pursue a better version of yourself. And remember what Jim Rohn said, “You cannot change the destination of your life overnight but you can change the direction.”

-J 

Out.

The Profile Of A Champion: Winning Circle

The secrets to life are often hidden behind the word cliché.

One in particular, get’s a lot of attention, yet, is rarely put into practice. Jim Rohn, one of the worlds all time greatest business philosophers, famously said,

“You become the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

Commonly referred to as a cliché, this profound truth is common sense, yet uncommon in practice. In fact, it’s validity is so clear, the maxim has been communicated throughout history.

“Birds of a feather flock together.”

“The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”

“If you lay down with dogs, you’ll wake up with fleas.”

If it’s sheer restatement and repetition in literature wasn’t enough to get your attention, maybe a few definite examples will.

Think about Michael Jackson. Michael had talent. Michael was born with greatness. Up until, twelve he was seen as just a cute kid. It wasn’t until he met Quincey Jones, when he upgraded his circle of influence, that things started to explode for him! He went to a whole other level. Together they released “Off The Wall”, “Thriller”, Beat It”. Michael went from a cute little kid to a musical icon. He went to a whole other stratosphere by connecting with just one person!

Think about the 07-08 Boston Celtics. Prior to that season, the Celtics hadn’t won an NBA championship since 1986. In 2007 however, the Celtics traded for both Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. With Paul Pierce already in the Celtics lineup, Boston now had three all-star players on the floor. Individually, Paul Pierce was doing it, Ray Allen was doing it, and Kevin Garnett was doing it. But when they came together, they became champions. When they came together, they were unstoppable.

I could go on and on because I’ve researched it. When I was sixteen and depressed, the first thing I needed to do was change was my circle. That’s why I’m so proud to be part of the 2017 Cohort for Venture For Canada. I’m constantly being exposed to young professionals that are like minded. Who are focused on growth, focused on making an impact, and most importantly continue to stretch me to be a better version of myself.

One fellow in particular, is an obvious by-product of a winning environment. Every conversation we have is filled with wisdom far beyond his years. He’s someone that, wether he knows it or not, I look up to as a mentor. He reminds me everyday of the importance of having a Winning Circle. And I know his story will inspire you to start to create a Winning Circle of your own!

John Connell headshot for blog

A proud Nova Scotian, John Connell, is a fellow with Venture for Canada, SDR at Fiix, Volunteer at TechTo, Freelance Guitarist (he’s incredible), and recent graduate from York University. This eclectic background is a result of endless curiosity, paired with the exposure to a winning network of friends and family. Today John has experience the influence, and the corresponding effects, that come with both a Winning and a Toxic Circle. Here’s how you can identify both.

Growing up in Middleton, Nova Scotia, John was exposed to a tightly knit network of people that were connected through deep and encouraging relationships. Whether it was in his backyard, across the street, or at school, Middleton had a team mentality that left an impact on John to this day. He recalled that when you were feeling down, there was always someone there to pick you up. Everyone in the community was expressive, supportive and accountable.

That environment, the Winning Circle, was the perfect playing ground for developing leaders. In High School, John was challenged to be constantly moving, to always have a goal he was striving for, and to push beyond what seemed reasonable or comfortable at the time. This is an indicator of a true Winning Circle. You won’t always accomplish your goals and you won’t always win in your pursuits, but, when you fall, you will always be supported. You’ll always have your community to lean on in times of difficulty.

With the support of his friends, family, and community, John went on to become the captain of both his schools Rugby and Hockey teams. Again, John was exposed to the attitudes, attributes and aspirations that make up the Profile of a Champion. In his three years playing for his school John skated alongside teammates who went on to compete at the Jr. A and QMJHL level of hockey. John was amongst winners. And in the presence of winners John was forced to step up. Sitting on the porch of his apartment, he told me that he was never the best player. He didn’t skate the fastest, he didn’t shoot the hardest, he didn’t have skills people were awestruck by. But, because of his circle, he was forced to work harder. He was stretched. He was pushed and forced to grow. By skating with players that were better than him he had to step up and go from average to great.

That’s how you know if you’re in a winning circle! Do the family, friends, teams, or colleagues that you surround yourself with force you to grow? Do they demand a higher level of execution you’ve ever been exposed to? Do they accept average? Or, are they striving for greatness? In my experience it’s worth auditing the quality of your circles. Do they remind you of the Winning Circle we’ve described above? Or does it look more like this…

John and I have similar stories. From eight to thirteen I was competing for Canada in Gymnastics and Trampoline. I was exposed to greatness. I was exposed to the work ethic, attitudes, and execution of world class athletes. However, when I graduated elementary school and transitioned to High School I quit training twenty-five hours a week in order to have a social life. I lost the ever present  example of greatness in my life. In fact, like most people I see today battling depression and mental illness, I went on to choose the wrong circle. I chose a circle that had no direction, abused drugs, and skipped class. Looking back I’m not surprised at the negative, downward spiral my life took. And after speaking to John, I’m not surprised in the direction his life took either.

John shared with me that when he went to university, he lost his mojo. He lost the zest for life he felt when he was surrounded by winners. Without clear intention, John walked into his new school, new town, and new network. Unfortunately, more often than not, when you’re not intentional about your environment and who you decide to surround yourself with, you connect with the wrong group. You miss out on the circle that is aspiring towards big goals and accomplishing their dreams. You miss out on those that are intentional about their time on this planet. The group that by being in their presence you too will become more clear with your own direction.

That feeling of lack of purpose, or when you can’t quite put your finger on why you’re not feeling 100%, I attribute to being engaged in the wrong environment. John’s challenge is that he wasn’t necessarily in a toxic circle, he was in an average circle. They weren’t all negative, they weren’t all doing drugs, and they weren’t all directionless. They were average. Average is such a monstrous contrast from greatness. You get different feelings when you’re surrounded by winners. You hear different language when you’re surrounded by winners. You see different actions when you’re surrounded by winners.

Being surrounded by average can be even more dangerous than being surrounded by toxicity. With toxicity you can see, feel, and taste it. You’re conscious about it’s effects on you! With average… It’s effects are subtle. You find yourself wondering why you’re not feeling passionate and why you’re not winning. John didn’t know why he lost his mojo until he once again was exposed to greatness.

He didn’t find a way to feel positive, enthusiastic, and at the top of his game consistently until he met his now girlfriend, who helped him rebound from a difficult time. It was through their association and teamwork that they were able to pull the best out of each other. This close connection with a supportive and encouraging partner brought the winner back out of John. Her support helped pick him back up to the point where he started to get his mojo back. John was always a winner, he always had the attitude of a champion, but as John said better than I ever could,

“The champion needs desire, with the right support. You need to drive the ship, but  you can’t always pick yourself up on the grace of your own strength.” – John Connell

The more I get to know John, the more I’m proud to call him a mentor and a friend. In my opinion he epitomizes the Profile of a Champion. He has the attitude of a champion, the curiosity of a champion, the work ethic of a champion and most importantly he understands the criticality of surrounding himself with other champions.

As you reflect on your circle of influence, no matter where you are today, I know that you could be just like John, you could be one person away from becoming the best version of yourself. Or maybe you’re like me. Maybe you need two, three, or a whole community of people to support you. What really matters is that you can identify what type of community you’re being influenced by. Wether they’re winners or average, both will impact you through expectations and exposure.

In winning circles you’re expected to be a winner. The expectation is greatness. The expectation is that you’ll be a champion. The challenge with average circles is that when you’re good, you’re okay with being just good. When your environment is average, you start to believe you’re great. You can quickly become delusional because the expectations are low.

When you’re in a winning circle, all you’ve been exposed to is winning. All you see is great, so all you know is great. Exposure to greatness, winners, and champions will give you no choice but to step into your own greatness. Your environment is everything!

You don’t need a new brain or a new heat to change your life. The day your circle of influence changes, everything will change. You can only go so far by yourself and you can only get so far with the people you’re hanging with. If you surround yourself with winners, you’ll become a winner. If you surround yourself with losers you’ll become a loser. If you can change your circle of influence, you can change your money, your attitude, and your destiny. I dare you to take your life to the next level. I dare you to manifest the greatest circle you could possibly imagine!

Do This.

  1. Audit – What are you being exposed to? Do you need to add one person or a dozen people to your Winning Circle? Or perhaps you need to take one person or a dozen people out of your circle… Regardless of where you’re at, you need to be candid with where you’re starting. If you truly become the average of the five people you spend the most time with, do a gut check on whether or not you would be proud to be an amalgamation of those five people.
  2. Affirm – Affirm that you will no longer accept average. Affirm that you will no longer settle for good and that you will find a great community. Know that no matter your talent, no man is an island. Affirm that you will no longer fear being around great. That you will no longer be intimidated by being in circles of influence where you will be stretched, pushed, and forced to grow. Affirm that in your one and only life you will intentionally and deliberately change your circle of influence for the better.
  3. Act– Start today! Message John on LinkedIn. Download Shapr. Join a new group on Meetup. Cold email someone you look up to and ask for a meeting. There are countless ways to start developing your new Winning Circle. We’re stronger together as long as you’re deliberate that your new group embodies the Profile of a Champion and forces you to grow.

Till next time, stay on the offensive. Aggressively pursue a better version of yourself. And remember what Jim Rohn said, “you cannot change the destination of your life overnight, but you can change your direction.”

-J

Out.

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The Profile Of A Champion: Empowering Self-Image

I listened to one of George Zalucki’s audio programs when I was 18 and it changed my life. As an educator for sociology and psychology, he shared an experience of how our minds and our self-image are easily influenced by outside forces. He said that in education, if you take a sample of students and tell them that great things are expected from the, that they’re capable, they’re marvellous, then that group of students would perform that way. However, if you took a different group of students with the same basic IQ and told them that you were concerned about their learning capabilities, that there are indications they’re not going to cut it, then that group of students would deliver exactly what you suggested to them.

“Most people absolutely destroy themselves with their self-image.” – George Zalucki

I had an incredible epiphany in that moment! I realized that at a larger scale, that is you and I… I recognized that my entire self-image was formed in my youth. The thoughts that I have about myself today are a reflection of  my experiences, the influencers in my life, and what I’ve exposed my mind to in the past. George shares that more often than not, the self-image we develop is a negative one. It’s often shaped when a parent, or a teacher, or an older sibling tells us we can’t do something. You don’t have the talent. You’re not smart enough. You’re a boy. You’re a girl. You’re black. You’re a minority. You’re overweight. Or any other number of ridiculous reasons as to why what you’re working to accomplish is wrong.

That was true for me.  And that was true for my good friend Megan, too. I met Megan this year through my fellowship with Venture for Canada. I was blown away by Megan’s confidence! She’s one of the most transparent, authentic, and open minded people I’ve ever met.  Yet, candidly, I was surprised when I heard her story.

Knowing how paramount our youth is to building one’s self-image, I imagined Megan would be reserved and quiet. But that description couldn’t be further from the truth! This sparked my curiosity. Why was Megan able to face tremendous adversity and oppression, and still manage to see herself today with confidence, poise, and power? And how can others who’ve been through similar crisis’ of identity, who’ve been told they’re not good enough, and grew up believing they’re worthless and unlovable,  take responsibility for their self-image and thrive?

Fortunately, Megan was generous enough to share with me just that. We discussed that no matter where you start, everyone has the ability to build an empowering self-image and become the champion of their lives.

Megan VFC for blog

“Everyone goes through different struggles. And it’s those struggles that make up who you are. Until you own that about you, you can never reach self-confidence.” -Megan Heesaker

We live in a world obsessed with symmetry. And in that world of symmetry, Megan doesn’t match. Self-identified as cis-gendered and a lady-lover with masculine gender expression, our world has thrown it’s unfair share of oppression and adversity her way. When she was six years old, rocking her bowl cut, she was confronted in a restaurant bathroom by another girl. The girl demanded that she leave the bathroom immediately because she was obviously a boy in a female bathroom. To this girl, Megan didn’t match and wasn’t accepted. She represented many others who also believed that what Megan was doing wasn’t right, and she shouldn’t be herself. 

This is an incident that may seem inconsequential to some. Yet, at the tender age of six, at a time where our minds are open like a sponge, ready to accept any ideas that come our way, this example of oppression is significant. As George Zalucki demonstrated, Megan was in the midst of building her self-image. However, when she accepted these ideas as being true, she built a prison, not a paradise, to play in. Megan’s traumatic experience forced her to submit to social norms. She grew her hair, wore tighter shirts, and started to make the fact that she was a girl explicitly clear.

It wasn’t until sixteen years later, when she was twenty-two, that she finally once again accepted herself for who she truly is. Sixteen years! Sixteen years of living in a disempowering state. Of thinking that she didn’t belong. And of holding herself back from true self-expression. I’m writing this post because I was so inspired when I learned that it ONLY took sixteen years. Too many people will allow the experience they had when they were six, ten, fourteen or any age, shape their self-image for the rest of their lives. Those people never experience true self-confidence, never believe in themselves, and as a result will never live up to their full potential.

How We Shape Our Self-Image

Firstly, notice that I wrote, “how we shape our self-image” not, “how others shape our self-image.” You and I are responsible for shaping our self-image. Our thoughts about ourselves are based upon our belief system. And our belief system is based on the patterns of our minds, our definitions, and the interpretations of the events that happen to us. We develop these patterns and definitions by ascribing themes to those events and we make them mean something. No one else can make anything mean anything, except for us. As much as it’s easy to blame and make excuses, that little girl didn’t shape Megan’s self-image at six years old, she only influenced it. Megan was responsible for ascribing meaning to the event. As a result, her thoughts that she had about herself in that moment became habitual thoughts over time. Those habitual thoughts created her beliefs, which in turn formed her self-image.

I want you to see yourself in Megan’s example. Personally, I can see how I shaped a disempowering self-image image in my youth because of one or two main events. Can you see that for yourself? Can you identify the events that you mistakenly attributed the wrong meaning to? Take the time now to think about it. Because if you don’t, you won’t be able to attribute new meaning, forgive those people, and begin the process of developing an empowering self-image.

How We Can Reshape Our Self-Image

Why was Megan able to build back up her confidence when so many others will give up hope and live their entire lives in a box? How did she go from oppressed, to empowered? The answers are in the application of these two concepts, forgiving those who influenced your self-image and engaging in new activities.

Nobody had the right to do what they did or say what they said when they influenced your self-image. They had no authority or any right to do it to you. But, they didn’t create the meaning, we created the meaning! When we realize that, we’ll be able to forgive all those people who suggested we were limited in any way. Until you do that, you’ll be engaged in something that is incomplete and you’ll have a real challenge wiping your slate clean.

Megan described that by not accepting the event, and forgiving those who influenced your thoughts and beliefs, you’ll get caught up in a negative feedback loop. I know men and women in their fifty’s and sixty’s, that to this day, continue to play the toxic tapes of their youth over and over again! They never forgave themselves, and they never forgave those who participated in the event. For decades, these people have been stuck in their disempowering beliefs. Don’t let that be you. Forgive and move on to engaging in new activities.

Once you’ve forgiven, you can now spend your mental energy focusing on what’s right about you and who you want to be. Get a vision of where you’re headed and stay focused on the person you can become. When you do that, you’ll start to get engaged in new activities. This is the real substance of changing your self-image. 

In order to build an empowering self-image, you must be willing to get out of your comfort zone. Which incidentally, if we truly knew what a comfort zone was, we’d be all to eager to jump out! The comfort zone is so inconsistent with our capabilities as a human being. Our true nature is to achieve, to excel, to stretch, and to reach! This is exactly what Megan did and what I want to challenge you to do.

In the summer of 2013, Megan cut her hair. Up to this point she had built her entire self-image around fitting in, looking like someone else, and submitting to social norms. This action (a new activity), changed her life. She felt more like herself than ever before. And was reminded of that spunky and confident kid she used to be. Her story inspired me with this truth that I now want to share with you,

“It takes time to figure out who you are. But I think it takes even more time to be comfortable with who you are.” – Megan Heesaker

If you focus on a new event, possibility or activity, your old disempowering self-image will sort of dissipate in the process. When you engage in new activities you’ve now extended your domain of possibilities in direct proportion to your willingness to venture out!

I want you to notice how you feel inside when you read about your comfort zone. Do you feel excited to jump out? Or, do you feel anxious, scared, or straight up disgusted by me for even bringing it up? If you’re feeling the latter, it’s OK. Know that I, and most of the world, feels the same way. Getting out of our comfort zone scares us! That’s why I want to encourage you to find the right support network. Often, before we can empower ourselves, we need to find others who will empower us, first. That’s what I did, what Megan did, and what I recommend to you.

“Support is critical when you’re in the midst of a crisis and especially when you’re ready to emerge from one.” – Megan Heesaker

Instead of pushing people away when you’re shaping your new and empowering self-image, Megan encourages folks to bring people in. Finding a community that will support you (your “Winning Circle” also my next post 😉 ), whether that’s friends, family or other, is critical in getting started and progressing longterm in your new activities.

You’ve now set yourself up for a phenomena. You can now become successful in some new things you’re trying. That is how you restructure your self-image! Self-image is based upon what you believe and you cannot lie on top of a fundamental belief. So if we believe ourselves incapable because of our past events, then who we are is incapable, until I have some new experiences I can succeed at. Then I can have some new input and some new data to help me form new beliefs.

Finally, when you’re in the process of building new beliefs, and you catch yourself thinking your new self is beyond your reach, remember Megan’s story! Today, I’d describe Megan as raw. Completely authentic. With all pretense stripped away, her confidence allows her to deeply connect with others. She’s vulnerable, which allows you to be vulnerable. She’s doesn’t need to moderate her behaviour, which allows you to be yourself. But it was only through developing an empowering self-image that Megan was able to experiencing this state of full self-expression. And it’s only through full self-expression that Megan is able to continuously touch the lives of those lucky enough to know her.

If Megan can do it, you can too!

Do This. 

An empowering self-image is fundamental to giving the champion enough confidence to solve big challenges. Without it, you’ll never have the belief in yourself to persist past obstacles or even give yourself the space to try.

  1. Identify the 1-3 events and people from your youth that influenced your self-image. Write it out. Understand that you gave those events meaning and take full responsibility for your beliefs about yourself. Now, forgive those people and prepare to move on.
  2. Get an accountability buddy, buddies, or whole community! There’s no better feeling than knowing someone’s got your back. They will get you started, keep you going, and cheer you on as you make progress on your new activities.
  3. Get engaged in new activities! If you have a disempowering self-image be like Megan, decide today what new hobby you’ll practice, or skill you’ll learn. Will you become successful at guitar, Spanish, salsa? The possibilities are endless! Decide today and take the first step right now towards building your new and improved empowering self-image.

Till next time, stay on the offensive. Aggressively pursue a better version of yourself. And what remember what Jim Rohn said, “you cannot change the destination of your life overnight, but you can change your direction.”

-J

Out. 

The Profile Of A Champion: Doing More Than Expected

One of the most important rules of personal economics I ever learned was from Jim Rohn. Jim’s unique philosophy is this,

“we get paid for bringing value to the marketplace. It takes time to bring value marketplace, but we get paid for the value, not the time.”

My whole life I learned about hourly wages. About punching a clock and getting paid x dollars for the time I put in. I quickly learned that thinking was wrong. Jim challenged me and in this post I want to do the same for you.

Why is it that one person can make only $20 an hour, when another person can make $100 an hour? Why is it that with the same background, the same ethnicity, living in the same country and with everything the same, one person can make two times, three times or five times the money that someone else makes? The answer, value. Value makes the difference in economic results. And when I observe the champions of our world, they’re focused on providing more value than their being paid for. They go above and beyond their peers through work ethic, thoughtfulness and generosity. They do more than is expected. 

At Venture for Canada training camp I met a lot of champions. One in particular, caught my eye quite literally. Camp was a casual setting with most people dressed relaxed. We wore jeans, t-shirts and sneakers. Ryan however, was always dressed professionally. He wore a clean button down with dress pants and shoes. He was sharp, respectful, and walked with an air of confidence. He immediately stood out as someone who respected himself and how he was perceived by others. I knew I wanted to get to know him.

Ryan Cobb headshot

As I got to know Ryan better, I quickly understood that dressing professionally was only one of many ways he did more than expected. From being the first member of his family to go to University, all the way to running for Fredericton City Council in a municipal election, Ryan consistently goes above and beyond what is expected. Born and raised in Riverview New Brunswick, Ryan’s first exposure to the profile of a champion was through his father. Owner of a local funeral home, Ryan’s father instilled in him the importance of giving time, energy and respect to others no matter their background.

Clearly those early lessons paid off. Today, Ryan’s willingness to do more than expected has shown up in his value to the marketplace.

In my opinion there are three reasons to do more than expected.

Your Example Empowers Others

In both his social and professional life, Ryan has become a servant leader. He believes the first responsibility he has as a leader is to those surrounding him. Anyone reading this that aspires towards getting promoted, making more money, and feeling more joy and fulfillment can benefit from embodying this thought,

You can be a champion in your own life, but you can always be a champion in someone else’s life.” – Ryan Cobb

It wasn’t until Ryan became a servant leader that his true value was realized. In his second year of University, he decided to become a residence assistant. An RA is tasked to facilitate the social, academic, and personal adjustments of first year students coming into University. A role that already presented a myriad of responsibilities, Ryan became a pillar for his students to lean on. He took it upon himself to be the best role model possible.

Ryan intentionally dressed sharp. Was always smiling. Was respectful with every student. He Showed up early for class. And was cheerful and enthusiastic everyday. He believes that no matter the personable stresses and troubles we’re dealing with, we can always choose to have the right mindset. Ryan shared a story with me about a young man in his first year who was skipping classes and had a poor attitude. After a few months of watching Ryan’s example, greeting people in the halls, attending every class, and being excited about his time as a student, the young man approached him. He said, he had been skipping class all semester. But after seeing Ryan’s example, hadn’t missed a class since the Christmas holidays a few months before.

What type of example are you setting for the people around you?

Are you giving your best self today?

Do you showing up with a contagious enthusiasm that will empower others to feel the same way? 

The champion does. The champion leads from the front. They set the tone. They’re always willing to sacrifice whats easy for whats right. The champion does not forget the “small things” like thanking those around them, working for others, and always lending a hand. They know there’s great impact in the small things.

You Will Be Valued

If you want to quickly add more value (making you more money), get promoted into a leadership role. Leaders with the habit of doing more than expected virtually always cultivate the most respect, admiration, and work ethic from their teams.

Completely unqualified, Ryan told me about his job working for a truck driving company. Put in charge of a team of twenty truck drivers double his age, most people would expect to be discounted for being young and inexperienced. Not Ryan. His habit of doing more than expected meant that he took time and energy to get to know each and every driver personally. He had empathy for them. He knew how hard it must have been for them to put in ridiculous hours on the road. To live in their trucks and be away from their family for weeks.

“If you want to be valued, value other people first” – Ryan Cobb

The personal relationships that he built payed huge dividends. It meant that his team felt comfortable with his leadership. They were able to have difficult conversations. And ultimately, when Ryan left the company, eight of the drivers came into the office to wish him well on his next journey. Completely unheard of in that line of work.

Do you want to be truly valuable to your company? To your family? To your friends? 

Than take heed on Ryan’s advice as I am, value others more than expected. The champion gives people they care about their time, energy, and patience. At the end of the day you will be valued and respected.

You’ll Begin To Think Big

Just like a young child, the champion is a big thinker. They believe in possibilities for themselves and society most people can’t imagine.But, if you’re not a big thinker today, it’s okay. Neither was Ryan.

Ryan shared that he didn’t always do more than expected. He didn’t always believe in himself. As he was growing up, he learned to be afraid of being wrong. That fear crippled his thinking.

He had thought for a long time about running for the Municipal Government. Yet, like most people, he was afraid of what people would think of him. Afraid of embarrassing himself. Afraid of rejection and a potential loss that would crush his confidence. He wasn’t thinking big. He was focused on the obstacles instead of the possibilities. 

I asked Ryan what had changed. Why did he finally decide to run for office, despite the feelings he had recently experienced? Here’s what Ryan said,

The accumulation of my experiences from my Undergraduate degree, being an RA, living alone, and managing many teams made me realize that I’d be better off losing, than living with the regret of never trying.”

All of Ryan’s experiences of doing more than expected lead to a clear boost in his confidence. When you empower others, you empower yourself. When you value others, you value yourself. As Ryan developed as a leader, he built the belief necessary to think big. Without big thoughts, you will never be willing to venture out, take action and execute on your ideas. 

I know that Ryan has an incredible future ahead of him. He’s demonstrated the willingness to be and do more than expected. He’s dedicated to adding value to his peers, community, and his companies. I know without a shadow of a doubt, this young man is a champion.

Do This. 

The purpose of this series is to help you recognize some of the traits necessary to become a champion. It’s important to remember that each trait of the champion is a learnable skill. As an example, right now I’m focused on doing more than expected by being hyper diligent with my follow up with people. I’m adding new people I meet on LinkedIn. I’m sending them an email. I’m thanking them for the opportunity to connect. I’m asking them if there’s anything I can do to help them. And I’m going out of my way to make sure that I add more value in the relationship than I’m taking in return.

Ask yourself what one area of your life can you do more than expected. Is it in your homework? Is it taking out the garbage for your partner? Is it by dressing sharply by Ryan? What’s it going to be?

Choose right now what one thing you will do to add more value to your peers, community, and company that you weren’t doing prior to reading this. Even the slightest shift in value, can give you tremendous upside in return. 

Till next time, stay on the offensive. Aggressively pursue a better version of yourself. And remember what Jim Rohn said, “You cannot change the destination of your life overnight, but you can change the direction”.

– J

Out.