TEDxCalgary Judge John Reilly

This was one of the most moving talks we filmed at the TEDxCalgary event about a judge who came to understand more deeply what justice is all about. His talk illustrates the difference between institutional understanding and deep understanding. Where Judge John Reilly took the time to be curious about the problems at the Morley Reserve, the legal system relied on protocols and procedures rather than any real understanding of the issue. This is one of the underlying issues for all institutions.

Here is one quotable I want to highlight:

“They (the First Nations) saw wrong doing as ignorance, in need of teaching, and illness in need of healing.”

Compare this compassionate and thoughtful approach to the current government approach where justice is a matter of punishment and deterrence. Just about every other country including the US has figured out that this approach does not work.

But, our appetite for easy answers based on surface understanding knows no bounds.

Something worth thinking about.

Does your Day-Timer align with your Business Goals?

Take a look at your calendar right now.

iCal on the iPad. Sorry, I couldn't resist.

What have you been doing for the last month? Is it the life you imagined yourself living? Are you doing what is needed to making progress? Do you know what progress looks like? Anything surprising?

Financial planners often suggest that the first step to money management is to become aware of where you are currently spending your money. It follows then that the first step to “time” management is becoming aware of how you spend your time.

Think of your Day-Timer as a fossil record of your life. It’s incomplete and it’s ancient history, but it can give you some indicators of how you have lived your life and how you could improve on it. Ask yourself some of these questions:

Have you scheduled items that you don’t respect? Sometimes we schedule things we should do like going to the gym, making cold calls, or taking time to read. This is an opportunity to ask why it is a should and either recommit to it or redesign how it’s scheduled. For the advanced schedulers out there, you may want to have an Intended Calendar (how you intended to spend the time) and an Actuals Calendar (how you actually spent your time).

Are there big gaps in your schedule and you feel like you have no spare time? If you are self-employed, time can seem to disappear without you knowing why. By noting what you are doing in those gaps, you gain the ability to reflect later on whether that was time well-spent.

Are you spending a surprisingly large amount of time on unimportant things? We’ve all done it before. We spend hours tweaking a website or shuffling papers when we really should be working doing the work we least want to do. Calling attention to your typical business time-wasters will help you stop doing it.

How much time are spending on the most important projects? On the flip side, how much time are you actually spending on the work that will make the biggest difference in the long-run? The projects that are on fire will always absorb our attention, but what about those projects that will be on fire? Or what about those skills, relationships, results that require a lit bit every day?

How much open space do you have in the week ahead? If the answer is “no space”, then you may want to ask yourself if that is sustainable. Without time for reflection, for spontaneity, or any other kind of unstructured play, you could be missing opportunities to innovate in the best case or running yourself to the ground in the worst case. Perhaps it’s time to make some difficult choices as to what activities should be chopped. Sometimes scheduling “you time” or “business time” is necessary. This doesn’t mean you should schedule every conceivable minute of your life. It just means you may have to set aside time for it.

Is your schedule mostly empty? If it is, either you are in the fortunate position of a Warren Buffet who has a singular focus and nothing else critical to worry about, or you are trying to keep everything in your head and letting little appointments and commitments slide. A simple test is to ask yourself whether you are forgetting little details or having that feeling that something needs doing, but you don’t know what. We shouldn’t be slaves to our calendars, but neither should we carry it all in a leaky memory. You don’t want to be “that person” who we can count on not counting on.

Does your calendar involve the most important people in your life? It may seem unromantic to schedule a date with your loved on, but compare that to not having any intentional, conscious, quality time with people you care about.

In the end, your schedule is a reflection of some (not all) of your priorities. It’s worth taking a look at how you’ve been spending your time and checking to see if they actually align with your life’s journey.

Are there are any funny or interesting patterns you see in your schedule? Please share!


P.S. – I was inspired by this video on your calendar as a “moral document”.

The Human Venture of a Wedding

Hiking sticks to symbolize the human venture for our wedding ceremony.
Hiking sticks to symbolize the human venture during our wedding ceremony.

Exiting the wedding bubble (also known as the period between entertaining family prior to the wedding and the honeymoon afterward) requires accepting the harsh reality that life has not been put on pause for you.

But being in the bubble was also a great opportunity to be present with your partner, to reflect on the experience of being married, and perhaps (but not too soon) to look ahead to the journey together.

Yet as much as the wedding really seemed on the surface all about us, the multitude of discussions, the project planning, the volunteer hours was a reminder that we couldn’t have done it alone and therefore we also could not celebrate it alone.

It’s hard to understand the Bridezilla who claims that this is “my day and I can do whatever I want”. We certainly had a personal vision of the wedding, but it was a vision of bringing together four cultures under the banner of “My Big Fat Trinidadian, Sri Lankan, Chinese, Canadian Wedding”. We wanted to honour our immigrant past.

My Big Fat Trinidadian, Sri Lankan, Chinese, Canadian WeddingThe immigrant story is a familiar one. My parents immigrated from Taiwan just before they were married, while my wife’s parents immigrated from Sri Lanka and Trinidad. Both of our parents gave up their familiar friends and family, learned a second language, gave up their old credentials, got reeducated, struggled with culture clash especially with their kids. For our parents, life really wasn’t about them. It was about the next generation. It’s only now after decades of hard work can they begin to reap the fruits of their labour and see their kids successfully adapt to life in Canada.

Isn’t that the human venture as well? It isn’t about this generation or even the next. Every material thing I have ever touched or used, every concept or idea that I have experienced was a contribution by some person somewhere in some time period. For that I am thankful. What the human story is and how we might pass on our best possible selves is a part of our responsibility in this moment, this journey.

At the wedding ceremony, my wife and I were given these lovely wood-carved hiking sticks by Ken, our ceremony guide. There was something immensely grounding about being supported by the soul of a tree. In addition to holding me up in my faint moments during the ceremony, it symbolized how life supports our hike together.

The wedding was and will remain a vivid and beautiful marker of the journey we both get to take.

Get Interesting by Being Interested

We’ve heard it in marketing before. Get interesting! This says nothing, of course, about what kind of interest you want and how to generate it.

But before going there, why do people take an interest?

  • Because people are interested in the relationship that affirm them, attract them, stimulate them
  • Because people can live vicariously through other people’s stories
  • Because people like to acquire new resources for an advantage from status-seeking to problem-solving
  • Because people like to acquire new information from idle gossip to deep technical knowledge for the same reasons as acquiring resources
  • Because people see something that will help them fix a small problem or reach towards a larger vision
  • Because people are curious about new and shiny things or ideas that are different from the usual
  • Because people are interested in what has them think and feel differently about the world around them

There are many more reasons people take an interest. The point is that to get people interested in what you think is important, you should tap into the range of ways that people pay attention.

But to generate “interest” requires drawing on a deeper source of your own curiosity. It requires that you take an interest in human affairs and furthermore, you take an interest in your own life. Otherwise, we are fooled into thinking that we can create the appearance or trappings of “getting interesting” without ourselves taking a genuine interest.

By being interested in what people need, want, do, hope for, and by being fascinated by your own life, what you strive for, what you hope for… you’re more likely to be interesting to others.

Learning how to disagree

A committed relationship must be one of the most challenging self-development programs out there. One skill I am continually trying to develop is learning how to disagree in an authentic yet graceful way.

Many a book has recommended a few basic ground rules such as no yelling or choosing the right time to talk or avoiding words like “always” or “never”. The problem is that in the midst of heightened emotions, the ground rules often get thrown out the window. Too often, people feel the emotions and either lash out unthinkingly to get a response or retreat into an angry simmering for fear of dealing with open conflict.

Before any ground rules could work, each person in the relationship needs, first, to have a high level of self-awareness such that they are able to see their emotional state and articulate it. With awareness comes the potential to be able to conduct oneself better under duress.

Easy enough in theory, but think about what personal capacities you would need to have:

  • The ability to disagree or not understand each other and be okay with the uncertainty.
  • The ability to feel deep hurt or embarrassment or disappointment and still think clearly about the situation.
  • The ability to see the bigger picture even while feeling as if the emotions encompass the whole world.
  • The ability to be vulnerable even in the midst of anger or hurt.
  • The ability to risk the relationship by being truthful.
  • The ability to let some things go because it just isn’t worth it.
  • The ability to admit error and take ownership of it in the situation.
  • The ability to reflect on internal responses and figure out why they happened.
  • The ability to change habits.
  • The ability to co-create a solution with another person.

It’s a heck of thing trying to find out what triggers our unproductive behaviours. We want to believe that we are righteous in our feelings because it could not feel otherwise. But there can be a big gulf between the trigger and the reality. We are complex beings. A tiger jumping out a bush should trigger us to run or fight. A misspoken word or an unforgivable deed requires something more of us.