… there was an empty page. And it needed to be filled. Not because the page had any agenda of its own but simply because Nature abhors a vacuum and will always rush to fill one.
One great way for me to get something going in my life is to open up new “space” and see what happens. That is what I’ve done with my blog and this first entry.
Why start with this picture?
Simple. I took it and it is the best Nature picture I’ve done. This is a photo of a place near where I live that I love to go to.
But as I selected it, I realized it has more meaning than that. In fact, it is a great representation of the purpose of this blog.
This river comes crashing down the mountain, full of power, making lots of noise, moving at times with purpose and sometimes with wild abandon, bouncing off obstacles in its race to the ocean.
But at various places along its journey it takes time to rest and reflect. At the spot in this photo, it settles quickly into a set of deep, quiet pools, surrounded by sheer rock cliffs and illuminated by sunlight bouncing off the rocks beneath its surface. No longer racing ahead, it ambles along, twisting this way and that, the power still present but subdued and much more forgiving.
The thrashing opacity and roar of the rapids is gone and it is possible to see how wonderfully crisp and clear the water really is in the quiet that settles over the surface. After a little while, the river will gather its strength and speed again to resume its mad dash. But during its time in these pools, it allows others to see through it and, in fact, welcomes them to play with it. Children and adults jump off the cliffs above into the deep clear pools, confident they can see any dangers lurking beneath the surface. It is a restful yet playful place for both the river and all those who love it. I’ve learned many things about myself and others in this place.
Like the river, I rush through many parts of my life, bouncing from challenge to challenge, and opportunity to opportunity, my head filled with a powerful churn of ideas, my space filled with the roar of conversation and human activity. But in recent times, I’ve learned I need to occasionally slow right down, let the rapids and whirlpools of my thoughts subside and the cacophony of my activity fade away. It is during these times that I get the greatest clarity of who I am, how I am and even perhaps why I am.
My intent with this blog is to give myself a place to share a little of what I see and feel when I enter this “space” and some of the other less contemplative places in my head. What I say may be quiet and accommodating or it may be loud and aggressive. Whatever the case, I sincerely hope it will be transparent; that you will be able to clearly see what I’m saying and any agenda I may have in saying it. Time will tell how successful I’ll be.
Let me know what you think.
P.S. This piece was the first blog post I ever wrote. It was originally posted April 28, 2006 on my Blogger site which was called “The View From Up Here” and is now shut down.
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness.”
The role of startup CEO is challenging both personally and professionally. The variety and depth of problems you work on are incredible. Not only do you get to collaborate with amazingly talented and motivated people, but together you end up creating a business out of thin air. If you are lucky, it may even become one that changes the world in a big way. This is deeply satisfying. But the icing on the cake is that, along the way, there are many opportunities for personal growth. This last bit happened to me over the last year.
In the late summer of 2018 Mira, our CMO, and I, were talking about ways to grow industry awareness of FundRazr and differentiate ourselves in our crowded and noisy market. We knew we had a unique approach to solving nonprofit donor acquisition and retention problems and had customers who loved our long-term solution. But it was proving hard to convince professional fundraisers to accept changing trends in philanthropy. Mira felt that we needed to be bold and talk more about our crowdfunding innovations and industry leadership. I agreed but was worried that we didn’t have a way to get our message distributed. And, I was feeling a bit insecure. Was what I wanted to say important enough to justify the effort???
One of my favourite quotes is from W.H. Murray of the Scottish Himalayan Expedition. In it, he quotes Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves, too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would otherwise never have occurred.
A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.
I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:
“Whatever you think you can do or believe you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”
To me, this isn’t just a bunch of nice words. I’ve experienced this effect so many times that even my internal skeptic knows to just shut up and get on with it when the quote comes to mind.
So, I said, “OK, let’s do it.”
The Universe is listening
It took less than a week for the first opportunity to present itself.
I received a phone call out of the blue from Zarrah, then an acquaintance but now a friend at the University of Northern British Columbia in Prince George. She asked, “Would you be interested in doing a TEDx talk about something around the future of philanthropy?”
I’ve always admired people who gave TED talks and secretly aspired to be one of them, but I had NO IDEA of what I would actually say in a talk of my own. And, while I am very comfortable talking in front of people and on camera (even live on the National news!), the idea of the TED talk format scared the crap out of me.
Don’t get me wrong. I love being on stage; positive attention from a crowd really fills me up. If I’m on a panel or, better yet, doing a talk on a subject I’m even modestly expert in, I feel pretty confident and enjoy the experience. Bigger stages tend to inspire more creativity. When I’m free to “roam” around my topic, my creativity kicks in, my personality shows up and everything works out much better. Some of my best talks and insights into our work and industry have come to mind while on stage.
If I need to deliver some very specific talking points with carefully chosen words presented in specific order, I tend to stumble. The idea of memorizing and delivering an 18-minute monologue with minimal support from slides seemed like my own Everest.
So, in the spirit of the quote, I said, “For sure, let’s do it”.
I took some time to think about the topic but only came up with some lukewarm ideas. We got on a call and brainstormed to try to come up with a better Big Idea (the tagline of TED is Ideas worth sharing) that was also something juicy (because I’d hate to be boring).
We know from our field work that donating to a cause is more of a commercial transaction than most people want to believe. Instead of getting a product in return for your cash, you get an experience and that experience generates a bunch of feelings. Our hypothesis was that some ideas around improving the commercialization of the donation experience might fit the bill. After a few stabs at a title for the talk that none of us really liked, out popped a good one:
Feelings For Sale: Philanthropy Reimagined.
It was a bit edgy and actually annoyed a few people when they first heard it. We were on to something! I started to write the speech.
And then… about a week later… Zarrah called to let me know that their TEDx conference had to be postponed. The hope was that it would be rescheduled for Fall 2019.
Get committed and Providence moves
I believe it’s helpful to assume that everything happens for a reason. It may not be “the truth” but doing this keeps your mind open so that, if something better comes along, you’ll recognize the opportunity.
I was disappointed but completely understood. And, a tiny bit relieved. The memorize the monologue thing had been weighing on my mind.
One of the funny things I’ve experienced is that, once you get behind the Commitment thing, Providence does move – sometimes despite feelings of wanting to slow it down. It only took nine days for the next “stream of events” to start. And the level of assistance was amazing.
Nicole Sawyer, a media executive whom I’d never met, called to invite me to join a panel at their Future of Crowdfunding conference at Bloomberg HQ in New York. The event would be livestreamed on their media channels and their terminals in Europe and the US.
“Would I be available to come?”
Now THIS was right up my alley and fit perfectly with our plan. “Hell, yeah!”
I was honoured to be asked. It was exactly the kind of credibility-building event we needed. It would be recorded so would be something we could refer to for years to come. And, it would give me a chance to practice my delivery of some specific talking points in a “battlefield environment” i.e. live in front of an audience and on camera. I could work on getting better control of my creativity and deliver more predictable and better-quality results.
The secret to success is preparation. That is easy to say but sometimes hard to do in the fast-paced world of startups. Nevertheless, Mira and I worked on a set of points we wanted to try to get out during the panel discussion and planned our approach to the moderator’s questions to help us keep it insightful and relevant.
The Bloomberg studio was fantastic. The lighting and stage setups were very friendly to the speakers – you could SEE the audience! There were literally “right there” – just a few metres away.
I had a BLAST. And the very positive reaction we received to the panel encouraged me that what we had to say was important and worth sharing. Some of my friends rolled their eyes when they read that last line. There is a theme here – wait for it…
Less is more
Fast forward to April. The TEDx UNBC committee emailed to say that they were “go” for an event at the end of September and would I be available to participate? My heart jumped … and then sank.
I’d just booked tickets for my first “real” family vacation in the 10 years of running FundRazr and I’d be away touring Italy. I was reluctant to change it – especially with non-refundable tickets. They said, “Hold on – don’t give up! We’ll get back to you”. And the dates of the conference miraculously shifted to early October.
Work on the talk began in earnest. While we’d put a pause on it last year, it was never far from my mind. In some ways, this was more of a curse than a blessing. Over the year, I’d talked with many people about the core idea, listened to their feedback, adjusted the message and tried again. As a result, my head was FULL of dozens of approaches to the material. The challenge became distilling the mass of ideas into one coherent framework.
I’d set the vision with the TEDx UNBC folks and my FundRazr team that we would honor the opportunity we’d been given and put in the work to make this a world-class talk. It sounded like a good approach, but I frankly had NO IDEA of how much work that would require.
If you watch a TED talk, it looks like the speakers are effortlessly stringing powerful words together, wandering comfortably around a stage, punctuating their words with appropriate gestures and all the while enjoying great rapport with the audience. It sometimes seems like they are just supremely talented individuals who can “pop off” a great speech at a moment’s notice.
What I’ve learned from doing the work on my talk is just how much time ACTUALLY goes into the preparation of the script behind these talks. In chats with other TED & TEDx speakers I quickly learned that this surprise at the effort required was an almost universal experience.
At the beginning, it felt like a few days of working hard on the content would produce the results I was hoping for. After many hours of trying to capture my thoughts in words, I made my first attempt at reading what I’d written out loud – just to get a “feel” for it.
TEDx talks are limited to a maximum of 18 minutes. I’d only written about what I’d estimated would be 2/3 of my content and the run through came in at 25 minutes! Not good.
the next few months was a massive effort to distill the core idea and the surrounding words down to fit into the 18-minute window. Over that period, I added new content, tried new approaches to some of the supporting topics, cut content out, reworded, reordered, rephrased and reduced the idea count.
I discovered a few interesting things in this process. One was that I realized that I didn’t have a clear idea of what I wanted to happen because of the talk. After a few challenging discussions with advisors where they probed for what I REALLY (i.e. secretly) wanted to happen, it became clear that I wanted to change consumer/donor expectations of charity and force charities to adapt to that change sooner than later. For their own good, IMHO.
In talking this issue through with Deb and Zarrah from TEDx team, I mentioned that a good metaphor for what I wanted people to experience was the idea of making a crowdfunding campaign an entertaining, episodic story – kind of like a TV series. They jumped on it. And our new title became:
Philanthropy as Entertainment: Binge Watching for Good
Crazy Canadian talking to himself over cappuccino
My team frequently talks about our desire to inspire change in our industry by inventing innovative solutions to big problems and delivering world class technology to make it happen. So, when we do our most important work, I sometimes challenge us: “Is this world class”?
As I said, my goal was to make the TEDx talk world-class. In an uncomfortable turn of events, that desire ran head-first into my dream of relaxing and enjoying my vacation without thinking about work…
I planned to memorize the entire speech before I left on vacation, but startup life conspired against me and I found myself on a plane to Rome feeling woefully unprepared to deliver the talk. Fortunately, the rhythm of our vacation gave me time almost every day to practice out loud. I read each section of the speech and then delivered it out loud with my eyes closed. I expect many Italians think the Canadian who talks to himself over his morning cappuccino was crazy but, no matter, my confidence in the speech was growing.
T minus one
I’m an experienced business traveler having flown the equivalent of roughly four round trips to the moon (well over a million miles). I was an expert at dealing with jetlag and still being “on my game”. However, when I did most of that travel, I was substantially younger. And apparently, it is a skill set that requires practice. The bulk of that travel was a decade ago.
Sadly, I’ve apparently lost my edge…
We flew back from Rome. I re-packed my suitcase and left the next morning to fly to Prince George for the dress rehearsal. The dress rehearsal practice speeches were done in the same order as the final presentations. I was scheduled to speak last – the organizers hoped I’d wrap the day with a strong performance. But, as a result, my practice time was very late at night – almost 9:00 PM. And my internal clock was running on Italian vacation time – i.e. 6:00 AM after traveling almost halfway around the world. Yuck. Needless to say, my practice run was not optimal. Fortunately, I learned a huge lesson…
I’d been practicing my speech in segments; each segment a distinct concept. I had transition language between each one. But – I rarely ran the whole thing through all at once. It was embarrassing to be talking to myself in the Italian coffee shops, so I kept the duration of each soliloquy to the minimum.
In my dress rehearsal, with my brain and body drained from travel (I even tripped coming onto stage), I hit one of the transition points between segments and completely blanked on what to say next. I rarely, OK never, have complete silence in my head. It is usually a cacophony up there with ideas jostling for position and attention. And here I was, standing on a stage, lights in my face, the conference organizers watching intently and… the sound of crickets echoing in my ears. Hello? Anyone? Anybody out there? Nothing. I have never experienced a void as black as that. Chilling.
An idea emerged. Note to self: practice the WHOLE DAMN THING through next time.
Fortunately, I just waited it out and the next idea in sequence finally woke from its nap and honored me with its presence. But it scared me. And set me up to hair-trigger implode.
I went to bed that night highly motivated to do multiple run-throughs of the ENTIRE speech in the morning. I did. It worked. No surprise, eh? I came to the theatre ready to rock the stage, have some fun with the audience and enjoy myself.
But, that little hair trigger from the day before was lurking in my psyche.
I climbed up to the stage (careful not to trip this time!), took a breath, steadied myself, and started. Everything was going great for the first two minutes. And then…
I looked at the slide on my “confidence monitor”. And the slide coming up. And it didn’t seem right. The animated transition between the slides wasn’t working right. Or, at least, it didn’t seem to be working right. I was confused. And spent a little bit of time trying to figure it out before giving up and deciding to plow on.
Feeling confused – can you tell? No? Really???
The slide may or may not have been working properly. I really don’t know. I’ll hopefully figure it out when I see the video. But, in the moment, it threw me. I was having eyes-wide-open nightmares of a repeat of the crickets moment from the dress rehearsal and it rocked me. I managed to get back into gear and continue the talk but was struggling with the adrenal fight or flight reaction that the stumble triggered.
IT WAS AWFUL. My breathing was shallow, my body and voice were shaking, and I DEFINITELY WAS NOT HAVING FUN.
It was made worse by the fact that I had NO feedback as to whether the audience was with me or not. The setup of the theatre and the in-your-face lighting combined to make the audience disappear into an inky blackness. I couldn’t even hear them. I didn’t have a clue as to whether anyone was even remotely interested in my topic let alone enjoying it.
This was NOT the Bloomberg stage. It was terrifying.
When I don’t know what to do, I believe that it is important to keep moving, even if you don’t know where to go. I (bravely?) soldiered on through the next sections, trying to get my breathing under control and minimize the shaking that was threatening to completely disrupt my plans.
Fortunately, one of my next slides was very “bright” and it momentarily illuminated the audience.
OMG – they were smiling! Now that I could (faintly) see them, I even heard them laugh at one of my jokes! It dawned on me: I was going to survive this adventure with at least a modicum of self-esteem. And I relaxed. The shaking slowed. My voice strengthened. And I got back into the groove of my talk, interacting with the audience and the content. It almost felt good.
AND THEN IT WAS OVER.
Nature abhors a vacuum and will rush to fill it.
I was drained. And so were the rest of the speakers. We attended a wine and cheese party for the attendees and then went to dinner. It was interesting to see the emotional let-down as everyone processed what we’d been through. In some ways, it reminded me of the reactions after a group of my friends went skydiving. A common thread of our thoughts: I just jumped out of a perfectly good airplane! Am I crazy?
Over the next few weeks it was like experiencing the emotional hole that is created when a major life project or relationship is over. I felt empty. And a bit “at loose ends”.
I’ve been around the block long enough to know that when a hole like this exists in my life, it is MASSIVELY important to very consciously visualize what I want to fill that emotional space. There is a saying: Nature abhors a vacuum and will rush to fill it. Wise minds recommend being very clear and vocal about what you want to fill that hole because, without guidance, you can end up with a really negative “thing” in your life. As a result, I’ve been thinking very hard about the direction I want my business life to take. There are some big goals and aspirations in there. Funny enough, I’m already seeing progress…
Was the talk world-class? I doubt it. I felt like I had the opportunity to smash a soft pitch out of the park but had to settle for getting on base. Time will tell if the audience likes what I had to say. In my heart, I know that it is an important idea and I hope that it will resonate with audiences. More importantly, I hope it will help inspire a change in the attitudes and behaviors of charities and therefore help them continue their important missions.
Looking back, I have to say that this little TEDx adventure was MUCH more impactful on my business and personal life than I ever would have imagined. I’m hoping by sharing the story of my journey I can help you evaluate, eyes wide open, if an event like this will help you move forward.
For a future TED speaker
To try to summarize this journey, here are my key takeaways:
Get clear on your agenda. What do you want to happen because of your talk?
Figure out who you are and why is it OK to expect that result.
Remember – this is a performance of concepts – not a written essay read aloud.
Assemble a team of people who will tell you honestly what they see and hear. Great feedback at the beginning will save you tremendous effort and perhaps some embarrassment later.
Decide who is your target audience and why will they want to listen. This may or may not be the group of people who pay to see you speak.
18 minutes is a very long time. Aim for 15 or less. The addition of appropriate pauses will stretch it out perfectly.
Writing 18 minutes of precisely tuned content took me hundreds of hours. I thought I must be incompetent but many of speakers echoed the huge volume of work they had to do.
Take a fresh look at how you want to appear on stage i.e. check out your style. Doing a TED talk is a great catalyst to update your look.
You will share this experience with a handful of other people who are also giving their talks at the same event. They are a great group to leverage for the emotional support you’ll need to get this done well.
So… What’s your idea worth sharing? Add it to the comments below and see how people respond.
I’m grateful to the organizers of TEDx UNBC 2019 and the wonderful speakers for helping me have such a great experience!
A friend of a friend committed suicide yesterday. This is not his failure; it is ours.
We, as a community, have let him down in the most painful of ways. The chaotic state of the world (pandemic, politics, environment) is incredibly stressful. Some, like this young man, are not handling it well. Sadly, he successfully hid his distress and his actions were surprising. We didn’t figure it out until it was too late. And we all are damaged by his loss. We can and must do better.
This stress surrounds us, assaults us, damages us. It is having profound effects on everyone. Even those who normally feel strong are feeling it.
It is no longer enough to just keep an eye out for signs of failing mental health in those around us. We must proactively hunt it down and fight against it. Or, we’ll suffer more losses.
Winter approaches and with it, darker times. This compounds the problem.
Let’s commit to watch out for each other. To actively probe those around us to see how they are doing. To not hold back just in case we are wrong and create an uncomfortable situation. If we push too hard, we might feel a bit embarrassed. But, if we don’t, we risk feeling grief and perhaps guilt.
This is made all that much harder by the restrictions imposed by the pandemic. Personal contact and casual proximity are risky. Electronic alternatives are cold and easily abused.
To counteract this, if you can, reach out to people around you for more “just because I love you” conversations. Share what’s going on with you, even if there are a few rough spots. Be curious about what is going on with them, both good and bad. I like talking about things I enjoy or I’m grateful for because it tends to inspire both the speaker and the listener. If you are more transparent than normal, it may inspire others to open up. But, be careful to have no agenda besides enjoying a bit of honest, personal, human-to-human communication so that there aren’t any feelings of manipulation. I’ve recently had a few chats with family members who I haven’t seen or been with for a long while and it was wonderful; one of the best things that happened that day. Highly recommended as a mental health break…
For everyone dealing with the new reality of communicating with your team via Zoom or other video services, make a point of requiring everyone to turn on their cameras at least once in a while. Mental illness likes to hide out and only sharing your disembodied voice in a video call is a GREAT way to cover up the uncomfortable truth that may be written all over your face. By making it a standard practice, we can rip off that mask. People may feel more vulnerable but those who do are precisely those who we should pay more attention to.
I’ve lost more than a few people in my life to suicide and have seen a few others teeter on the brink. I’m committed to doing the work to make sure I don’t lose any more. Join me.
Footnote: Apparently, I’ve confused people with my original Facebook post. I appreciate all the wonderful thoughts sent my way but I didn’t know the young man – he was a friend of a friend. I think his passing is a “canary in the coal mine” event and will hopefully wake us up to the risks we face. It inspired me to write this piece to bring attention to the pressures on our individual and collective mental health. And it is certainly not to blame anyone for his passing – I’ve lost people close to me and know how difficult this issue is for everyone involved made worse when we try to help and that still doesn’t work…
I love that Apple is being beaten with their own words and their own concepts. They deserve it.
For a company that likes to promote itself with “Think Different”, it is obsessively focused on just the opposite: utter conformance to their highly restrictive rules. In the Apple Universe, there is only one way to do things – the Apple approved way. Is there any clue in the name of main street at their HQ? One Apple Park Way. People drop the “Park” in common usage…
For those too young to remember, in 1984, Apple released an ad on the theme of George Orwell’s book Nineteen Eighty Four. It was hugely popular because it showed a young protestor challenging authoritarianism – in this case a reference to IBM’s control of the business computer market.
The irony is that Apple has become the authoritarian regime it sought to destroy. Their monopolistic practices have restricted innovation and constitute a 30% “tax” on ALL paid software products that run on Apple mobile devices. They must approve all products you can download to your phone. Does that sound like a free and open market?
Google has a similar monopoly (albeit slightly less restrictive) on Android devices.
Both companies are now facing anti-trust lawsuits from Epic Games (publisher of the game Fortnite and the video) for banning the game from their platforms. To support their case, they launched a PR campaign against Apple parodying their 1984 ad.
After the recent “rough ride” testimony that Apple, Google (and Facebook) had in front of Congress, there will be many calls to restrict the monopolistic power of Apple and Google. I doubt Facebook will come away unscathed as well.
Other companies in the industry like Spotify have expressed their support for Epic Games in their lawsuits. I expect we’ll see many more.
While I’m reluctant to encourage government regulation of industry, the companies have managed to gain such tight control over the global markets that they need to be constrained to protect the free market concepts that power our economy. The companies are abusing their power and market forces cannot overcome their dominance. The collective power of all of us, expressed in the form of “government” needs to act and rebalance the playing field.
Watch the videos and have a chuckle at the concepts “karma is a bitch” and “live by the sword, die by the sword”. Or was that a hammer?
I’ve been thinking tonight of why Dr Bonnie Henry is so widely admired and, in particular, why I respect her so much.
It is pretty simple:
She talks frankly and empathetically about the serious and dangerous situation we are facing.
She is obviously not only well briefed but also a deep subject matter expert on infectious diseases AND the intricacies of our public health system. Her knowledge of the daily inner workings of our very large health network is impressive.
Her “situational awareness” of things like the various outbreaks in institutions across the province is outstanding. She knows what is happening (in detail), who is involved and the steps they are taking to address the situation. She not only knows “what” but “why”.
She is transparent in that she is willing to share details of her plan, its successes and failures, and the risks and rewards of her strategy with us. I feel like we are treated as thinking adults.
She plans multiple steps ahead. I believe she has a strong vision of how this pandemic will play out despite the wild variations it may take depending on our cooperation with her plan and the unexpected influences on it from outside our provincial borders. Said another way, she is flexible in her expectations but has a clear idea of her preferences.
It is clear she has some very strong people on her team from the rapid decisions she’s had to make and the resulting actions she’s been able to take. This is the sign of a good leader and manager.
She doesn’t brag about the success of her actions but still celebrates the wins.
She generously shares credit for the things that have gone well and accepts responsibility for things that haven’t.
She is an excellent communicator. Her messages are clear, easy to understand and easy to accept, even when they are tough to swallow.
She responds to feedback. I’ve heard questions in a daily briefing that are not only answered immediately but also answered in the next day or two with decisions made and actions taken.
She is practically hopeful and, by sharing that, gives us hope.
I can’t obviously “know” that everything she says is true.
It is incredibly easy to trust her. Over time, she has proven that what she says is the best, most honest version of things that she can share.
I believe Dr Bonnie Henry represents a modern, truly Canadian hero. This isn’t one of the brash, larger-than-life, risk-taking personalities that are sometimes given the hero moniker in media and elsewhere. It is in the every-person nature of who she is and what she does, even though her carefully considered decisions and the results they generate are extraordinary. It feels like she could be a friend you’d meet for coffee and at the same time easy to see that she is making an incredible impact just by being herself.
In the post-presentation question period today, a reporter tried to bait her into predicting how many people would die in British Columbia from COVID-19. The reporter pulled in facts about what other leaders in other regions were doing in an attempt to corner her. Bonnie has previously explained why she is not willing to “pick a number” (my words). She explained how and why her team uses multiple models of epidemic evolution to influence their decisions but that the models are all, in some way, flawed and therefore only guidance, and not definitive. The reporter finally zeroed in and asked, “Will you tell us today how many people you think will eventually die in British Columbia?” She looked straight back and said, without apparent malice, “No.” But it was subtly obvious that sticking to her guns and staying in integrity with her principles gave her a little endorphin hit and the flicker of a grin flitted across her face. I actually celebrated out loud that she didn’t cave to the pressure.
In my opinion, Dr Bonnie Henry deserves the honor of being named an Officer of the Order of Canada. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Order_of_Canada
I originally posted this on Facebook but have captured it here to remind me…
I’m frightened by something I’m seeing. There is a situation developing that is tearing at the very fabric of Canadian society. I’m appalled at the disrespect for core Canadian values it demonstrates. Fortunately, it is very easy to identify.
If you recently have used the phase, “I’m not a racist but …”
Simply take out the words “not” and “but” and we’ve identified the villain.
There you have it. You are a closet racist. And you are destroying Canada. Not protecting it as you so naively believe.
Based on that, I sadly do NOT consider you a valuable or integral member of Canadian society unless you take action and discontinue this behavior. Please feel free to leave. Or better yet, get out. I don’t care if you were born here. You’ve lost your way and you don’t deserve the freedoms in this country that our families fought and died for.
In contrast, I’m happy to invite into Canada more people who are inclusive, who value what we have here, who contribute to our society AS A WHOLE, and who celebrate the variety of people that make us an amazing human race and do not try to segregate us into some isolated populations based on unscientific differences or religiously/politically motivated and generated fears.
I’m really tired of hearing versions of this “I’m not a racist but” phrase from family, friends and others in my community.
Everyone has an inherent racist bias. It is almost impossible not to have one. I have one. Or more.
The difference comes in how you handle it. If you are actively looking at your biases and working to find ways to be a better person in spite of them, I’m on your side. If not, I’m first going to try to wake you up to the opportunity in front of you. If you actively resist, I’m going to work tirelessly against you.
This rant is in response to multiple recent incidents where immigrant friends of mine have suffered RIDICULOUS, undeserved and laughable-if-it-wasnt-so-serious abuse at the hands of European and British heritage Canadians. As I’ve told my friends in these circumstances, I’m happier to have them in my country than the so-called patriots who want them to leave. My immigrate friends demonstrate real Canadian values of hard work ethics, tolerance, respect for others, generosity, inclusion and community comes first. They are far more Canadian than their attackers.
If you cringed when you saw that I’m calling you out for the phrase “I’m not a racist but …”, please look at the crap that you’ve allowed to taint your humanity and take action against it.
I’m Daryl Hatton – Darlene’s eldest child. I’d like to share with you some stories of my mom and what I’ve learned from her.
Darlene Marie Shorten, was born New Year’s Eve, 1937. In thinking about how she lived her life – this seems like the perfect day! Being very unselfish, she generously shared her special day with the rest of the world and, in response, the world threw the biggest party you can imagine, on that night, EVERY YEAR. There were even fireworks!
But the underlying point is that, to her, it was never about her birthday, or for that matter, about her at all. Ever. With husband Art by her side, the progressive New Year’s Eve dinners with friends were one of the highlights of her year. Not because it was her birthday but because it was just another great opportunity to get together with people she loved, to celebrate endings and new beginnings. Her generosity and focus on the experience of others was a foundation of her life. She cared deeply for people and put others first, sometimes perhaps to her detriment.
Her goodwill towards others showed up in many subtle but powerful ways. My son Ben’s birth was a very difficult delivery over multiple days ending with my wife Myra having an emergency C section. Darlene was the first person to come to the hospital but instead of racing to see the new baby, she stood at the foot of Myra’s bed until she woke. And then, she smiled and simply said, “good job”. It meant a lot.
Darlene was curious about other people. Sometimes embarrassingly curious. She was gregarious and loved talking with people. And she was community focused, always wanting to help out, even if she hadn’t been asked. When we were young, mom would start talking with anyonewho was close by; in the line at the grocery store, at the next table in a restaurant, while waiting in the doctor’s office. I’d cringe as she struck up a conversation with yet another TOTAL STRANGER. As kids, we’re not supposed to do that, right??? She’d recommend items on the menu, or talk about recipes for fresh vegetables or would share details of family health issues. Sometimes I just wanted to crawl under a rock and die.
And then I had kids. And somewhere along the line I started talking with strangers. In the line at the coffee shop. Or at the airport. Or at the next table. And I’d recommend one of the menu items. And my kids would cringe. And I realized I’d become my mother!
Fortunately, my kids have apparently learned that this behavior is OK much faster than I have. That’s good because the unexpected benefit of this little quirk is that it naturally and painlessly strengthens our community. It is friendly and inclusive and tolerant and magnanimous; all things we need more of in society right now.
One trait that I acquired from my mom was her empathy; the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. She was so good at it she’d end up crying at sappy commercials on television … and I was right there with her.
Growing up I looked at this as a weakness. I was very uncomfortable with all the emotions that would bubble up and tried to suppress them. But when mom moved to BC after her divorce and in the many conversations we had at that time about life, and purpose, relationships and family, about forgiveness and not holding a grudge, loving ourselves and being grateful for every challenge we encounter, I started to learn what an incredible gift empathy is. What better way to help someone feel safe and loved than to share in their emotional journey, not from a position of weakness but from one of strength and caring? To be a rock they lean on and a guide to support them in finding their path forward. While I am still sometimes very uncomfortable with the unpleasant side effects of having strong empathy, I consider it one of the greatest and most amazing gifts she has given me. When I accept my weaknesses and turn them into strengths, I win. It’s a powerful lesson.
One of my favorite memories of Darlene is from 1988 when she took a trip to Europe with Kate to celebrate Kate’s graduation from UBC. I sneakily arranged to fly over and surprise them in Paris. After creating quite the scene in the train station (Kate was screaming “What are YOU doing here!” Repeatedly! It cleared the platform…) we set out to explore Paris. For the first time, instead of being parent & child, we were just people sharing an experience. And mom was FUN! I’ll never forget her dancing her way down a Paris street near the Eiffel Tower, swinging from the lamp posts, trying her best to emulate Gene Kelly in Singing in the Rain, and singing at the top of her lungs. The wine she’d drunk (“But I only had one glass – Yes, mom, but they refilled it multiple times!”) contributed to the enthusiasm but in the end, I remember vividly seeing the young woman inside of her, free from the constraints of motherhood, simply living life fully and with passion. It inspires me to remember to take time out to play.
Darlene was adventurous. I didn’t recognize this for a long time, as a young boy having mentally positioned her in the “boring, stay-at-home mom” category. But there were lots of examples.
We shared an extended family cabin on Last Mountain Lake in Saskatchewan. One time, Uncle Bob had his boat out and asked if any of the adults wanted to go water skiing. If I recall, only my mom wanted to go. I was frankly shocked to see her get up almost right away! Apparently, she was more of a natural athlete than she ever let on.
After she moved to BC, and soon after she became a grandmother, she learned to snow ski. And she was good at it! We would go night skiing on Grouse Mountain to look at the city lights and have some time to talk on the chairlifts. We got so into our conversations that a few times I turned around and skied backwards in front of her so we could continue talking! She was worried that I would run into someone, but I knew that would never happen. Across all areas of her life, personally and professionally, she was aware of everyone around her and was always looking out for others. I trusted her to guide me, and we were fine.
One story of being adventurous and also courageous really stands out for me. Growing up, we had an Olympic class racing sailboat – 13 feet 6 inches long and way too much sail if the wind got up beyond a breeze. I was skipper and mom or dad were crew which gave us an ideal weight distribution for that boat. One year dad and I won the regional qualifying races to the Summer Games. And then, for reasons I’m only now beginning to understand, we were told that there weren’t enough women on the team from our region and I had to race with my mom!
In theory, not so bad, because in light winds, our combined light weight and all that sail would make us very fast. But. The races were in Swift Current. And the winds were blowing hard. Really hard. Frankly, I was freaked out. This wasn’t going to be fun. In fact, it was actually quite dangerous.
Mom was game to go and said her famous phrase: “Don’t worry – it will all work out”. We headed out for the series of races we had to run. It was rough. Really tough. The winds were so strong we capsized multiple times each race. We were exhausted. The goal no longer was winning. It was finishing. At times it felt like just surviving would be a miracle.
But through it all, even in the worst moments, mom just stayed focused on her job. She expected and trusted me to do my job and did her best to do hers. She didn’t coach or cheerlead or push to do more. She was my mother but more importantly, my teammate. I know she was scared, too, but she had faith we’d be OK. And we were.
Faith was another of her cornerstones. Whenever things were challenging in my life or in my family’s lives, it was common to hear Darlene say to us, “Don’t worry – it will all work out”. Not as a platitude. As a simple expression of fact.
One key thing that was evident during those sailing races but really in everything she did: Darlene had an incredible work ethic. All three kids competed in figure skating and ice dance. This had a big personal impact on Darlene as she had to sew all our costumes, frequently staying up very late at night working on them. The work was long, and probably boring. But she had perseverance and got it done. Now, a common phrase used by my family when facing hard work is “Let’s just get it done.”
I asked my daughter McKenna for a few simple thoughts on her relationship with her grandma. She talked about feeling accepted and loved, proactively and unconditionally. She always felt safe and respected, as a person, not just a child. As an adult McKenna says she now understands the conflicts inherent in divorce and is grateful that Darlene willingly endured them to ensure her grandchildren had a great experience of family.
Terry Shorten, Darlene’s youngest sibling said this: From the youngest member of the family to the oldest sibling, the mentoring and guidance given while growing up will never be forgotten and the times we shared will be held close to the heart forever.
Alex Shorten, Darlene’s next youngest sibling said this: As I think of Dar the following comes to mind, “Loving big sister who was thoughtful, kind, considerate, with not a mean bone in her body or a mean thought on her mind. As I was growing up with four older siblings and later a younger sibling, Darlene at times was a stand-in Mom, a baby sitter and a supporter of my early interest in books (I read them under the covers at night with a flashlight) and sports. She used these skills and others to develop 3 terrific children that possess many of her same characteristics.”
Darlene’s definition of family was not constrained. Quite the opposite, it was expansive. In the early days of my family and with the all complexities in our lives, it became clear we needed help at home. Lisa, a colleague of Myra’s, came to live with us and help take care of the kids. She quickly became part of our family but somewhat to our surprise, also Darlene’s. Mom adopted Lisa into her extended family because they were aligned to the same purpose – to support my family and help us be healthy and whole. Their relationship extended all the way until Darlene was in memory care. Once, when I asked mom about it, she said, “Your true family is not always related by blood”. From the way she treated Lisa, and at a deeper level, my adopted sister Kate, and step-siblings David and Linda, this rings true.
In writing this piece I realized I have many more stories than I could possibly share. And I’m feeling very grateful for that. But another thing I learned from my mom, at times like these, we have to keep moving.
So… things I’ve learned from my mom:
• Be generous and focus on the experience of others • Be curious, gregarious, community focused and always willing to help out • Talk with strangers and be friendly, inclusive, tolerant and magnanimous • Be empathetic and use empathy to show love, give protection and provide guidance • Pay attention to relationships • Practice forgiveness and don’t hold grudges • Love yourself • Be equally grateful for every gift and every challenge • Live life fully and with passion • Be adventurous and courageous • Be aware of everyone around you and always look out for them • Stay focused on the job, work hard and have perseverance. • Always have faith that things will work out and act accordingly • Family is very important • Blood relatives are not the only family you’ll have • Keep moving
In thinking about mom over the last few weeks I’ve not been surprised to recognize how important these lessons are in every part of my life: private, personal and professional. But the part that is surprising is how much they are infused in the company I’ve built. We help people use crowdfunding and social media to raise money for community causes they care about anywhere in the world. Already, we have affected millions of lives in a positive way and expect to affect many more. Our corporate culture reflects the lessons I’ve learned. Mom, you were inspiring and impactful.
I am very grateful for my time with Darlene and very proud to be her son.