Lift the Hat. Lift the Stigma.

by Mark Zaugg 10. January 2015 14:27



Hey Mack,

I never knew you personally, but I'm learning a lot about you in snippets of stories.  There's no doubt that I like you a lot.  We have a lot in common, I'm sure we'd be great friends.

Let's start with the hat.  I started wearing a hat to stop my ears from getting sunburnt all the time.  I love wearing a hat now.  You loved yours, I get it!  It's comfortable, it's convenient and it becomes part of your identity.  Your hat is yours, my hat is mine - the same but different too.  From here on out, I'll always have just a tiny thought of you when I put mine on.

Earlier this week I got watching #CHHSLetsTalk gather steam.  My daughter attends Crescent Heights, I admit I feel a solidarity where I'd otherwise feel no affiliation at all.  My hat's off to Brett Rothery, too.  What we saw this week was a crucially important conversation with some of the most affected of us taking part.  I had an opportunity to get involved.  I RTed a pledge from Zach Laing pretty early on, I tracked it as it gathered momentum and was really curious to see how a pure tweet dedicated to Mental Health Awareness would fare.  In the end, I was proud of the campaign and I'm proud of Brett for putting in the time and effort beyond mere clicktivism.  I matched what he raised, Ryan V. matched as well.  The three of us totalled a $321.00 donation - that's pretty okay in it's own right.

But this is my real donation.

I don't know everything about Mack, but I intimately know my own story.  It hasn't always been great.  Barring the best, most caring doctor I've ever known and some supreme support from my Dad and a few very close friends I would have not survived my fight against depression.

It has come and gone over the years.  Different rounds have been very different fights.  Today it's never soul-crushing and overwhelming the way it has been in the past.  I've got better coping skills now and I've got experience as to how things turn out given time and effort.  I can feel the difference between feeling bummed out and feeling depression set in and I've learned the first thing to do is talk about it with someone I trust.  The dread, the worry, the suffocation and hopelessness that used to paralyze me becomes less significant when I talk with someone who knows me and has an external viewpoint.

At my absolute worst, I needed help from my doctor.  I got lucky, he found a medication that worked for me and I stuck with it - even when I didn't feel I needed it - until I actually did not need it any longer.  I know that should I even need it, I have a tool I can rely upon again.  I'll be happy if I never need to, though.  I don't want to have to fight that hard again.

A few years back, when I started climbing out of my pit, I had went to visit my doctor.  I needed to refill my prescription and was back into financial issues at the time, but I knew it was more important to stick with my treatment so I rode my bike down to see him.  It was a longish wait that day, when I got in we went through our usual questions as how I was doing.  At the end of the visit he commented on me riding my bike - I had caught pneumonia previously and riding helped strengthen my lungs and get healthier.  He caught me with a very unexpected question, "Did you notice the guy who just left?"

Well, no, not really.  I was somewhat self-absorbed that day.

"He's fighting the same thing you are.  You know what he said to me when he got in here?  He said, 'There's a guy in the waiting room with a bike helmet under his arm and a smile on his face.  I want to be THAT guy.'"

I hope that guy knows that both him and I are in this together.  It's why having this conversation about mental health is so important to us all.  It's that outside perspective that matters so much!

It's also one of the many reasons I ride a bike.  It's entirely good for my physical and mental health.  I curl in the winter for the same reasons.  Going for neighbourhood walks (especially taking a borrowed dog for a walk) does the same thing.  Taking the time to care for myself physically helps me mentally.  Another tool in my belt to help myself, learned from another man's viewpoint of me.  Everyone's tool set is a bit different, we could use a hand finding what works for each of us.

Time with my friends means everything.  People who care, people who spend the time to talk, to touch base and keep life in perspective.  We all need friends like that.  We need to have these conversations on social media to change the world, but we need to have these conversations in person to change our circumstance.  Take the time to have those conversations, it will literally change our lives for the better.

So Mack, we never got to have this conversation together.  I'm sorry we didn't, I bet you had some really interesting insights that would help me.  Maybe this conversation will be someone who's not you and not me, but is in their own way just like us.

The most important part is that we start the conversation and never stop talking about it.


One parting shot: The downside of posting this to my blog is that it's publicly known and will never go away now.  There was once a nurse for an insurance company who was probing and intrusive and generally stigmatized the fact that I have "a history of mental illness."  She can kiss my ass.  This is about me, not about her, not about insurance, not about anything other than making each other's lives better.  It doesn't have to be a life sentence, it doesn't have to be an everlasting unchanging problem, it doesn't have to be anything more than one of life's experiences many of us go through.

Let's ditch the blame game and get back to healing and making life richer and more fulfilling - even those times when there are only lows, really lows and very, very lows.  The stigma just gets in the way of making it better.  Life usually does get better.

Lift the Hat.  Lift the Stigma.

My hat's off to you, Mack.

A crisis of morality

by Mark Zaugg 24. October 2013 06:15

I hate having a crisis of morality.

My four cornerstones are to be honest, to be trustworthy, to be fair (whatever that means) and to be respectful.  I really, really hate to be called out when I don't live up to my own standards - although I don't mind so much when I see an act so egregious by someone else that I question my own stance and entirely change my attitude in life.  It happens, it makes me grow as a person.

If I haven't lived up to my personal cornerstones in the past, it is up to me to change it in the present and make amends.  I am my own harshest critic.  I'd rather catch a problem in my moral framework by myself before someone else points out how big of an ass I've been.

Apparently, it turns out I have a number of friends that are gay.  To be honest, the topic has never really came up between us.  But I do not have any 'gay friends'.

I have good friends.  I have true friends.  I have close friends.  I have distant friends.  I have lifelong friends.  I have kind friends.  I have supportive friends.  I have awesome friends.  I have trustworthy friends.  I have talented friends.  I have poetic friends.  I have strong friends.  I have treasured friends.  I have brilliant friends.  I have clever friends.  I have confident friends.  I have funny friends.  I have honest friends.  I have old friends.  I have new friends.  I have fun friends.  I have cool friends.  I have amazing friends.  I have inspiring friends.

The adjectives applicable to my friends tell you about their character, not about their appearance or superficial descriptions.  I hope you find that expressive about my character and would make you wish to be counted as one of my friends.

Dearest BlackBerry,

by Mark Zaugg 21. September 2013 13:01

I'm up early, I'm in a thinking mode, I may as well blog.

And with yesterday's horrendous news about my beloved BlackBerry, I guess I better put in my two cents about the whole mess.

First off, and let me put is as bluntly as I can possibly put this, I am not giving up my BlackBerry any time soon.  I am not giving up on BlackBerry as a company, I am definitely not planning to go to any other phone.

Ah, misguided and blind loyalty, right?  Wrong.

So many have spoken of the arrogance of BlackBerry, the squandering of the lead in the smartphone market.  Well, yes, I completely agree they have suffered from horrible decisions.  But despite poor decision making along the way, they have produced an amazing phone that fits my needs wonderfully.  Every speck of arrogance attributed to BlackBerry is suffered in full by the market's new darling, the iPhone.  I like the iPhone.  It's kinda nice.  I have absolutely no desire to own one.  Apple scorns my desire of a physical keyboard.  Apple scoffs at my need to put calendaring first and foremost.  Apple does not care about my privacy.  Apple wants me to carry a charger with me at all times.

Arrogance isn't the whole story here.  The smart phone market has changed forever.  But the smart phone market has not stabilized and there is plenty of room for innovation.  And a physical keyboard and a removable battery.

So, with all my love, I pen this missive to BlackBerry.


Dearest BlackBerry,

I sometimes joke to my friend that I am pushing for him to run the company.  He does not yet realize I am absolutely not joking.  He may be technological and not have the ability to run a company of 7500, but he is one of the people that needs to drive the company from the inside.  He is the person that understands you need to make a seamless experience on a phone - not a cobbled together amalgamation of touch screens and shiny.  BlackBerry's leadership needs to listen a lot more to the rank and file who want to make great stuff.  (I know that's a nonsensical statement - all of #TeamBlackBerry wants to make good stuff, but there is a communication breakdown in there someplace.)

The thing that will save BlackBerry's bacon (if you'll pardon the mixed food metaphor) is a skunkworks project from within.  You've been creating your own Itanium for so long you've lost track of your own talent yearning to do better.  It doesn't matter if it's technically better if the bobble doesn't provide what you want in the long haul.  Intel was forced to turn it around by competition and they did it by redressing their CPU line through allegedly going back to a skunkworks project.  The most important thing for BlackBerry to start today is to find those projects and nurture the good ones.  Think of it as 20% time with 100% effort.

The irony is that you've created a really good, amazing phone.  It runs fast, it's ridiculously fast to type on, it's crazy fast (and fun) to flick around.  You need to leverage your strengths right now before processers ramp up and leaves this gem feeling sluggish.

Leveraging your strengths means start doing one thing right.  Do not fragment your ecosystem.  One operating system.  One phone -- okay, actually I'll make an exception and say two phones.  The Z10 form factor has to stay - I don't like pushing glass but I'm not the target market.  So a Z10 and a Q10 and everything into making them a great EXPERIENCE instead of just a great phone.  I'll give up on my beloved PlayBook, but I need my Q10.  I need my next generation Q10 to be even better than this one.

Your developer ecosystem has failed.  Accept it.  For three years I've been told I can download any app for my iPhone or Android.  That's not good enough.  You have to get sideloading easy and accessible to the masses now with a reasonable chance of making every app run seamlessly.  Hell, I haven't even sideloaded an app because it seems like a pain in the butt.

The great news is your developers on your platform are exceptional.  Blaq on my Q10 is now the primary way I interact on Twitter.  You have talent available.  Leverage it.

I get the notion of going with QNX, but it took far too long.  (There's enough material there for a whole new post!)  That's a problem of not listening to your engineers.  You got caught in a no-mans land between controlling a vertical stack of hardware and software and the commoditized, cheap platform that can sit on anyone's device.  That's a problem with not listening to your visionaries.  Opening the BBM ecosystem is a good start to leveraging your strengths.

And last, I heard the tripe about going back to business markets.  Stop being myopic idiots.  Your market was never business.  Your market was communicators.  Heavy communicators that need to stay in touch, stay organized, stay involved.  That market is huge, it overlaps a lot with business, but it is not business.  Deborah Yedlin calls her BlackBerry a tool and not a toy.  Start understanding just how important your role remains for those of us that must communicate.

My BlackBerry is irreplaceable.  Start communicating with us so we can get what we need from our phones.

Reflecting on a Dream

by Mark Zaugg 29. August 2013 04:35

I have always known who Martin Luther King Jr. was.  Always.

In and of itself, that statement may not be remarkable.  Dr. King was a powerful orator and a deeply driving force for civil rights in the USA.  He had a great affect on millions of people, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics and millions of others not enumerated.  Billions upon billions of people should know who Martin Luther King was.

I'm certainly not a scholar of MLK, I know the man was as flawed as he was inspiring - but really aren't we all?  I honestly wonder the degree of character assassination suffered at the hands of the FBI.  I am happy to accept Dr. King as the persona I know - as a man of peace and vision.

The reason I feel that to be a special statement is that I'm a white, Canadian man that probably doesn't have right or reason to feel such a connection to Dr. King.  By default I represent the privileged class that has the most to lose by ceding rights and powers to others.  Not for a moment do I believe that to be true.  Treating all people with respect and in equity makes us all greater beings.

I do know that in as long as I can remember I have always known the phrase, "I Have a Dream," and I have always understood that phrase to mean that all of us are meant to be equal.  My mother spoke it often, and today, on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, I've been thinking about her.

She would have been 16 years old when Dr. King gave that speech.  I struggle to imagine the impact such a speech would have had upon a young woman in Winnipeg, so far removed from the American South, so far removed from segregation, but aware of racism and discrimination enough that the speech was able to touch her entire being and through her shape my own life.

"I Have a Dream!" she would echo.  When she was exasperated that I had not cleaned my room, it would come out as a light hearted barb.  Looking backwards, when I had shamefully treated someone with disrespect and contempt the words, "I Have a Dream" would be said seriously and with all due meaning.

My mother was born in Germany after the Second World War.  The daughter of a Russian artillery soldier and the Polish "Angel of Mercy" who attended him in the prisoner of war camp.  I don't know all the details, many of them are shrouded in the struggle to survive and find a safe place to raise a family in post-war Europe.  Eventually, after much hardship, my grandparents found their way to Canada and settled in the north end of Winnipeg in a tiny, beautiful home where I knew love, kindness, great music and even better food.

I have shadowy fragments of my mother's childhood.  Once, just before they tore it down, we were taken to the home they first lived in when the arrived in Canada.  A mere shack, hardly habitable for a bachelor, let alone a family with four young children.

I once had a powder blue parka.  To this day I love powder blue as a colour and I'd proudly wear that coat now, but as an elementary kid I was teased mercilessly over that coat.  It was trying on my mother because she did not understand my love/hate relationship with a parka.  She only understood the sacrifice she had made to provide me with suitable clothing.  She let slip, "When I was your age I was lucky to have a coat at all."  Possibly one of those parental exaggerations, but from the perspective of today I'm not so certain that it wasn't exactly as she described.

The deepest knowledge I have of my mother's childhood, or perhaps adolescence, happened when we had time alone together.  I would have been around high school age and made the trip into Calgary while she attended University to get her degree in Social Work.  I don't remember the exact circumstance, I don't remember the whole conversation, but her words have been seared into my very soul.  We were talking about "fitting in" versus being your own self.  At some point in this conversation she confided the very taunt that formed her person.  When she was in school she had been called a "damned dirty DP."  She spat it out when she told me that day.  She had to explain to me that a "DP" meant "Displaced Person" and I had a staggeringly hard time imagining that to be any cause for discrimination or abuse.  We are all immigrants in some shape or fashion, varying only in the timing of when we or our ancestors arrived where we are today.  Unless you happen to be the fortunate few living in the cradle of humanity somewhere in Africa, and even then your ancestors probably migrated around some.

It saddens me immensely to consider the people displaced in the world today.  Particularly with the current news from Syria, of course, but the thought of anyone struggling to live a life of safety.  It is also sad to know people amongst us suffer from horrible mistreatment and not the dignity they deserve from what we consider a modern and civil society.

Throughout her life, my mother had friends of all ages, all heritages, both genders.  She wasn't perfect, but she extended a welcoming hand to anyone and everyone around her.

And she taught me "I Have a Dream."

A speech with such impact to a 16 year old girl it still echoes in her grandchildren.

We have not yet achieved Dr. King's dream.  We need to keep striving.  But we have not turned back, together we have made significant strides and we have not forsaken his dream.    I pledge for the next 50 years that I will not judge a person by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character, and I will do my very best to give everyone I meet the courtesy to consider them good and kind until they prove otherwise.

If I fail, and I sometimes will, I need to be challenged to live better.  I am, after all, just the son of a damned dirty DP.  My love for her must live through living up to the standard she set.

If you don't know the speech, you are now challenged to read or listen to it yourself.  Thank you, Dr. King.  May your dream come true soon and forever.

Make Helping a Habit

by Mark Zaugg 30. July 2013 06:07

I am a fixer.  I want to repair things that are broken.  I want to right what is wrong.

It's part of why I value my career.  Each and every day I get to fix something, or stop something from breaking, or make sure I can recover something in case of loss.  It requires attention to detail, keeping yourself organized with good notes, and a lot of foresight.  When I make a mistake in the foresight department (and I do that a lot!) I have lessons to learn, usually they're serious at that stage.  Serious lessons are painful to learn.  You can wallow in it or you can pull yourself up, learn and move on more prepared for the next time.

I've made a lot of mistakes, some have nearly broken me.  Some have taken years to recover from.  The biggest lesson I've learned along the way is from the great Murray Walker who said, "Never, ever give up."  I've decided that in my immediate world that means I should never, ever give up trying to make things around me just a little bit better.

It's not always easy.  I still let all the stress and crap get me down sometimes.

Shit does happen.  A woman was mistreated in my neighbourhood this past weekend.  I can't change that.  I can't fix that.  I can't make it better.  It bugs the hell out of me to be helpless.  But I can work to make our neighbourhood more cohesive.  We can improve things around us.  We can help each other.  It is what a community would do.  We must continually work to strengthen our communities - be they physical communities on a map or virtual communities on the internet or temporary communities that come together to meet then flit apart.

I've done my best to teach my children to respect others, I do my best to set the example daily.  Quite often I fail, or screw things up, or come across as disingenuous.  Tonight I was told, "It must be nice to be so colourblind."  Then I thought of Naheed Nenshi saying, "Calgary is the city where no one cares who your Daddy is."  That's the place I want to live, that's the interpretation of colourblind I long for.  I want to respect all my neighbours - my neighbourhood wouldn't be anywhere near as awesome without them here.  I want my neighbours to bring their best efforts forward, I'll put my best on the table too, and together we'll make a difference.  Some days are better than others, but the sum total needs to be moving forward.

Positive, directed change.  It's not a line I'm trying to feed anyone, it is very much an idea I've dedicated myself to working on daily.  I'm not a hero.  I'm not a genius.  I'm just an average guy trying to make things better each and every day.  Trying to learn something new each and every day.

Make helping a habit.  Sooner or later we'll run across each other and together we'll accomplish great things.  The rest of the world will have to look after itself until we get around to making it better, too.

Not buying into the intergenerational stereotypes.

by Mark Zaugg 29. May 2013 00:52

Okay, if you've been here before you know I love to think about different ideas that come together and alter my view on the world.  I especially love it when they take convoluted paths in order to get to me.  It happens more than I generally like to admit, and when I come up with a groundbreaking idea, I love to share it.

I've enjoyed reading Larry Dignan over the years.  I don't always agree, but he generally sends me down interesting routes.  One of the tweets he sent out yesterday was, "You're probably making awful assumptions about Millennials in your workplace."  For the record, I'm following Andrew Nusca now, it's a very smart read I recommend checking out.

As a solid, stereotypical, nerdy Gen-Xer I'm always up for a good laugh at generational politics.  Except I wasn't laughing.  Just looking at the survey:


According to 6,000 job seekers and HR professionals surveyed by the company:

  •     In response to the question, "Are Millennials tech-savvy?", 86 percent of HR pros said yes, but just 35 percent of Millennials answered in the affirmative.
  •     In response to the question, "Are Millennials team players?", just 22 percent of HR pros said yes, but 60 percent of Millennials said the same.
  •     In response to the question, "Are Millennials hard workers?", just 11 percent of HR pros said yes. On the other hand, 86 percent of Millennials said yes.
  •     In response to the question, "Are Millennials able to lead?", just nine percent of HR pros said yes, but 40 percent of Millennials identified themselves as leaders.
  •     And finally, in response to the question, "Are Millennials loyal to employers?", an astounding one percent of HR pros thought that they were, while 82 percent of Millennials said they were.


First, I'm not one given to generalize.  I know people are individuals and I hate tarring anyone with the same brush.  However, I though of my answers to the survey.

I'm extremely tech savvy, so I consider Millenials generally above average, but it's not a given.  I think most people are too harsh when they rank themselves on how tech savvy they are.  I firmly say yes to Millenials being team players and hard workers.  As to leadership qualities, my mind instantly goes to Millenials I know on twitter - or "those kids" as I like to call them.  Might not be a fair sampling, but it's those folks on twitter that I often consider great leaders that I admire even now.  Hell yes, they aren't just leaders but they represent a great hope for our future.  I'm thinking those HR Pros need to meet my friends.  Loyal to employers?  From my track record loyalty ain't all that it's cracked up to be.  Having said that, I want to put my best forward each and every day, I want to learn something more each and every day, I want to do some good each and every day.  I see the exact same traits in many of the Millenials I know personally.  Often they're just trying to find a way to make their own positive impact.

It felt discordant and kind of strange to me.  Not too much further up my feed one of those Millenials that I admire tweeted this out: That F*ckin Moment in Your Early Twenties

It kind of confirmed to me what I was thinking.  First off, saying "F*cking* just isn't noteworthy any more.  To me it means there is a new, more honest mindset that we don't have to feign shock when someone drops an F-bomb.  Second it tells a story of folks trying to establish themselves, trying to make that positive impact on the world and finding their way through the same narrows I once traversed.

Those are the Millenials that I know.  Those are my friends, my companions, my colleagues and sometimes, yes, my leaders.

Mom once said that she had friends of all ages.  It doesn't matter how old you are, it matters who you are.  I think today I understand her a little bit more, and I'm convinced more than ever:  We are, collectively, getting better.  Ultimately it comes down to all of us bringing forward our best effort and making a positive impact.

If you doubt there are some great Millenials out there, I can introduce you to a whole bunch of them.

A day of AUGH!

by Mark Zaugg 23. April 2013 01:11

The longer today goes on, the odder it's become.


It started off fantastic with a beautiful ride into downtown on Earth Day.  No one can take that away.

I explored and learned a small ton of awesome stuff at work.  Load balancing?  Yes, please.  I'm more than ready to take it on.

Tonight I got invited to a ContainR update.    This is beyond cool, they're trying to create the most amazing space imaginable in an otherwise fenced off, vacant lot.  Amazing.

And then I come home to bad news, loads of frustrations and anguish.  Seriously?  It just isn't worth it.

Out of my frustration of everything that seems to be wrong, seems to be slimy behind the scenes, everything that stands entirely against my beliefs and principles...  Then:

"you signed up to do a Jane's Walk, you are engaged, you care, you...."

"The sun has recently set, dusk has past, night shall pass, and the sun will rise again. Tomorrow. Relax and sleep well."

"I’m wearing pants, for the sake of world peace."

Some days the world doesn't make sense.  At the end of the day, you're going to find me standing beside those that wear their hearts on their sleeves.  I'll be standing beside those that will say, "I disagree with you, I think you're wrong.  But I'll debate you openly."

I'll be standing with those that say, "We can do something better.  We can create something amazing out of something that would otherwise be rejected.  Together we can make something that has intrinsic value where there was no value before."

Anyone can destroy.  I'm putting my effort into people determined to create something better.  But first, I'm going to relax.  Hopefully sleep well.

Tomorrow I'll create something good.  Then I'll ride my bike to Kensington and look at a little triangle of land at lunch.  Perhaps I'll even buy lunch from someplace along the way.

Life is amazing when you take the time to notice what actually matters.

Inclusion

by Mark Zaugg 11. September 2012 19:34

"You're quiet."
"You know me, I never have much to say."
"Yes you do!  You just say it in other ways."

Thanks Jen, you're right.

The point I was thinking about last night when I stopped writing was the effect of the Alberta Party not being strictly Left or Right oriented.  The most important point to me is one of inclusion.

It doesn't matter if I'm a fanatical debt averse, libertarian tinted, bleeding heart.  I've been welcomed into the Alberta Party based upon what I bring as opinions and solutions to the issues we collectively face.  We are most effective, most capable, most beneficial when we share the very best we have to offer with each other, proceed with complete dedication and just try to make things a little better than they were before.

There is no entry fee.  There are no signs that say you must be this tall or that old.  There is only the invitation to participate and the expectation that you be honest with your thoughts, listen to the opinions of others, and try to raise the level of discourse beyond sound bytes and into the realm of accomplishing good.

The underlying acceptance of people and their opinions is incredibly powerful to me.  The knowledge that the principles I hold dear will be given fair hearing is something I can believe in.  The expectation that I treat others around me with the exact same respect gives me confidence to be honest and to listen openly.  I believe it makes me a better person.  I believe that simply by being a member of the Alberta Party has helped me become more tolerant and patient person.

This inclusiveness was no accident.  It was with great insight that the Reboot Alberta and subsequently the Alberta Party was set up in just such a fashion.  It was a special degree of wisdom and forethought that baked that level of tolerance into the Alberta Party from the start.

We remember Pam Crosby, one of those wonderful people, today and I saw her fingerprints scattered across so much that I value.  I share her belief that we can do better than we have done in the past, there is room for improvement and there is always time to get things right.  No matter what happens down the road, knowing Pam makes my life better today and I cannot thank her enough.  The eclectic mixture of people who shared my sentiment today confirmed she touched every person around her for the better.

Indeed, as I sat beside one of my favourite people in the entire world my mind turned towards the parallels between Pam and my own mom.  The were similar in dedication, in desire to make things a little bit better, in their work to collaborate and give positive council to improve others around them.  It is impossible to carry the torch as high as they held it, but there are many of us in their wake who were touched by their light.

Sorry, Pam, I guess I won't get you the right address for the next election.  But I'll do my best to carry on with what you've taught me, and I'll always try to make the world around me just a little bit better than it was before.  And I will welcome all who will work to make things better, whether we agree or not.

Dictum meum pactum

by Mark Zaugg 17. August 2012 11:32

My word is my bond.

It's an important phrase to me.  In a very important way, it represents one of the cornerstones of my life, indeed of my very personality.  That particular cornerstone is trustworthiness.  It means when I make a promise I'll do everything I can to keep my promise.

My word is my bond.

It has some unusual side effects.  Sometimes it makes me seem a little shy to make a promise in the first place.  I cannot say, "I'll do what I can" or "I'll try my best" lightly.  Once I have uttered those words I feel I have made a promise I must fulfill.  It does not mean I say, "I'll give a half-hearted effort and give up when it's not easy."

Worse, when I make an absolute glorious commitment in full fledged glory, it needs to be treated like gold in a bank.  My kids get that commitment, all the time without asking.  My family isn't the entirety of my life, though, and I have to find a balance for everything.

When I offer a promise with full sincerity, I better make sure I can make that kind of commitment.  Occasionally I get asked why I've stayed beyond the best before date.  There's your answer.

My word is my bond.

When I say you are my friend, there aren't strings attached.  On twitter, one of the questions one of my friends posed was, "What five things do you value most in your friends?"  I'm still working on the answer to that.  Sharing much of my value system is vaguely part of the equation.  Her answer was great, "Honesty, loyalty, reliability, confidence, sense of humour."

We can disagree.  I can dislike your choices.  But my friends are my friends and there's good reason so many of my true friends have been around most of my life.  Part of being a true friend means forgetting the minutiae and remembering the deeper part of why we get along and make each other stronger.

My word is my bond.

I love my community.  I run the risk that I haven't been here as long as others and I don't have a deep understanding or that I'll be a "flight risk" and move away as soon as possible.  I run the risk that my motivations be suspect, that I care more for myself than my neighbours.  A risk that this "listening" I'm pretending to do is just a front for "getting my own way."

I don't believe in zero sum games.  I know that I'm wrong about half the time and it's in the talking to others and gaining insight from their experience that I sharpen myself and focus better.  I do believe in openness and honesty and balanced evaluation of the facts.  And sometimes re-examination of the facts.

I know that I love the people and the place of my community.  Take either away and I'd like it less.  The people who want to be my neighbours, I want to be a good neighbour for them too.  Little stuff that means a lot.  I don't mind having to prove myself over and over again.  It is only time and action that will prove my sincerity to others.

My word is my bond.

Ultimately, I can't fix the world.  I really can't do much other than try to make things better.  Last night I heard Jay Baydala say, "People are the answer."  I agree.  I'm one person, but I'm looking to find answers.

I give you my word.

Oaks and Apples - from Conversations with my Dad.

by Mark Zaugg 13. August 2012 03:38

I had a rather mixed bag of ups and downs this weekend.  Definitely beyond the usual range I usually bounce between.

My life's mantra is, "Balance in all things."  It is so incredibly important to keep things smooth and level in rough seas.  I'll be the first to tell you, it gets bloody hard when you're ripped with devastating blows down and irrepressible boosts up.

Dad is playing bachelor this week, so it was one of those rare opportunities to have a real three generation men's night together.  I invited him over and for the first time in ages I got to make dinner for him and my son.  We spoke for a long time together, and he brought some of the balance I'd been seeking this weekend.

He was talking on a completely different topic, but Dad mentioned hearing a lecture he heard lately that inspired him.

He spoke about two types of trees.  The first tree was an oak tree.  Oak has great strength, the wood is dense and hard, and is resistant to weathering.  It's a fantastic wood to build with because it is so strong and durable.  Imagine a table made of oak, it could be built last year, it could easily be 100 years old.  Oak is beautiful, that beauty is passed along to the furniture built from it.

But as he spoke about the oak tree, we walked past my neighbour's apples.  An apple tree isn't as strong as an oak.  You can't build a table that will last as long, or be as solid, or resist scratching from apple wood.  But you can get an apple from an apple tree, and you can't get an apple from an oak.

An oak tree is not better than an apple tree, any more than an apple tree is better than an oak tree.  They simply are different, they have different properties and we, as people, have found different ways to use them.


In the same breath, why doesn't Canada take a very fast runner and make her run the 100 metre dash AND a marathon and clean up in all the races at the Olympics?  Perhaps some day there will be an exceptional woman who has the ability to run short, high energy, bursting races and have the talent to carry her speed and stamina over the entire length of a marathon.  However I doubt that we'll ever see such a feat.  Training for each event is specialized, it takes different skills from the runner.  A marathoner needs to sustain, a sprinter throws everything she's got into a short distance.

All the athletes Canada sent to the Olympics are Olympians.  It's not that sprinters are athletes and marathoners are sub-athletes, they are simply different people with different talents, different sports, and together they formed a team of inspiring and dedicated people with their own story lines to live out.  We can be proud of the people who went to compete, and win or lose they represented us well.  Collectively they are known as the Canadian Olympic Team, and they represent our best, a team we can all support.


Dad and I spent a great deal of time discussing future and past, goals achieved, accomplishments missed, futures uncharted.  One of those deeply philosophical conversations you need at the end of a tumultuous weekend when it is time to bring everything into perspective.  We covered a lot of ground today.

Now my Dad understands me better than I understand myself some days.  After touring the community garden together he described why I love Albert Park / Radisson Heights in my own words.  We spoke long and hard about my future, my doubts, my goals, my direction.  We discussed my career, my parenting, and most surprising to me, the Alberta Party.  Dad knows better than anyone why I am passionate about being part of a new approach to Alberta and its leadership.

"You can handle what you will be facing.  You have a goal in mind.  You learned the right lessons when you were young.  You learned the skills you will need to rely upon.  You got the anger.  You dealt with the anger.  You focused your anger.  You have your principles that will not be compromised."

I know what the Alberta Party has inspired in myself and in others.  I understand the drain we have inflicted upon our flag bearers, but I also understand that they held the flags because they are our brightest and our strongest.

I cannot sleep, thinking of the good people who stepped forward, who stood for Alberta Party principles, who believe completely that we can Dream Bigger and find a new approach that is more fitting with Albertans at large.  I cannot stop thinking about the people with whom I have connected who had no faith in politics, no belief that anyone would listen to them and lost belief that every Albertan's opinion is important and we all deserve a say in our collective future.  I cannot shake from my mind the thought that those that bore our flags are the very people that most deserve my gratitude and my dedication to continue their principles and ideals.

Yes, it is rough to have disappointments.  But we are not all sprinters.  The Alberta Party is an entire team of people.  We need our sprinters, but right now it is time to let the sprinters regain their wind.  It's time for the marathoners to step forward, to organize, to strengthen, to create.  The Alberta Party was never about displacing the other parties, it has always been about creating a new way to make collective decisions, to be more attentive to the people we represent, to encourage every Albertan to feel free to say their opinion openly, to be heard, to find a way to find what binds us stronger than what tears us apart.

We must also recognize when we want an oak tree and when we want apples.  The Alberta Party was denied our electoral apples in the last election.  Right now we have time to strengthen our foundations, the time to build something long lasting and strong.  Now is the time for Big Listens, Big Ideas, Big Dreaming.  To prepare for when we next will show the province we have listened and we are prepared to champion Albertans' concerns to the Legislature.

If you believe in the Alberta Party, now is the time to make your voice heard.  If you were intrigued by the Alberta Party but didn't choose them, now is the time to test and challenge by attending a Big Listen.  If you wanted to vote for the Alberta Party but had no candidate, now is the time to form your Constituency Association and become prepared.

If you don't believe anyone in government has ever listened to you, it is time to talk to me.  You deserve to be heard as I deserve to be heard, and at the very least we can listen to each other and choose the direction to strike out together.

Welcome

Change is the only constant.

Welcome to the semi-exciting new look, same crappy blogger.

All comments are still moderated, I'll approve everything that isn't spam or offensive.  Agreement with His Dorkasaurus is not necessary.

What has changed is that I don't have 1000 junk accounts clogging up the system that I have to go through one by one.  Yes, you too can set up an account and no longer need to wait for me to notice you posted.  Completely optional.

As always:  Have fun, be respectful.

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