Expectation is it the Enemy of Play? (Is Experience the Enemy of Joy?)


In the past – I was asked to give a Walrus Talk. The theme that the speakers were given was simply “Play”. I could do anything I wanted to from there.

I knew I could have addressed the value of play in the way that structured-play is used by Right to Play around the world to build communities. They use play to educate and empower children and youth to overcome the effects of poverty, conflict and disease in disadvantaged communities. Through Play one can teach important lessons such as disease prevention (HIV, Malaria, and other waterborne illnesses) and inclusion of those are living with those illnesses. 

I could also have discussed the importance of more unstructured-play for kids (and adults!) in our own communities. Our overly scheduled and observed lives leave less and less room for our imaginations and/or creative problem solving.

But I decided to address the play that should exist in, but to often is missing from, our work.

We all work. Whether that be in the form of a job from which we earn a paycheque, or work as school, sport, raising a family…  I don’t believe that work should always feel like a burden or a grind, there should be (must be?!) some part of it that is enjoyable – and even fun.  The people, what you get from it (intrinsic), what you get for it (altruistic), the mere act of doing or completing a task.. on any given day it might be different, but when we can recognize some element of what we are doing as enjoyable and even playful – the quality of not only our work – but of our lives goes up exponentially.

For my Walrus talk on play, I spoke about about my Olympic bronze medal, the one of four Olympic medals that I have that is not gold. I shared my observations that what was missing from that race was joy.

Play can exist in the hardest most challenging things that we are doing. It doesn’t have to be all skipping and smiles, it can be as competitive and focused as you choose. Try not to feel burdened by the expectations that come with work, but rather lifted and inspired by those expectations. Learn to frame joy and play as YOU like it.

It’s only 7 minutes… well – okay – I failed there… It’s about 11minutes, but it’s fairly short and to the point.

Expectation is (Can be!) the Enemy of Play 

Rookie, Established or Veteran – Seeing Your Self as a Champion Takes Practice

Focusing on task, improving technique and increasing strength are what keeps us in the up-curve of our careers.

Take a moment to picture a champion in your field, a person who achieves success often. See this champion doing something you admire: now see this champion smiling, shaking hands….

What do you see? I’ve always seen confidence, talent (not sure how one sees this, but it’s a feeling I get), good strong posture, and a twinkle in the champion’s eye – as if this champion knows a secret.

Now… here’s an important question – Was it you that you saw? Do you see yourself as a champion?

Maybe you saw a generic person – no one in particular – that’s fine — but could it have been you? (This is possibly a very “Canadian” way to picture success considering how we tend to think of who our “heroes” and role models are. ie – we tend to use composites of people and traits). So. Do you posses the characteristics that you saw? Do you hope to? Are you working on them?

Here is a telling follow-up question, especially if you are a woman — if it wasn’t you – did you picture a woman?

It’s not easy to be that bold, but ego is not arrogance.

When I first started thinking about actually going to Olympics – when I pictured an Olympian, in my mind I saw a male swimmer. He was sort of a perfect specimen – tall, broad-shouldered-narrow-waisted, hairless (?ha!), and almost zero fat on his body. I am none of these things so how could I become an Olympian? Continue reading

Hey Canada – Are We As Good As We Think We Are?

UHelping Others - All Hands Insing the US election as a High Performance … and Higher Values reminder.

In the shadow of the US presidential election I find it nearly impossible to miss the “this could never happen here” chatter. Canadians believe in human rights and dignity for all. Canada is diverse, inclusive, kind.

Well – blah blah blah. I’m not convinced that this reputation totally applies to Canada any more. I think that we have been all of the things– I’m just not sure that we still are. And if we are – I think we are very close to not being as inclusive and kind for much longer.

Why? We have been taking “who we are” for granted for a long time. Being the kind, generous population that we think we are requires hard work, dedication and, likely requires that we disrupt our personal routine: I wonder if we haven’t all gotten a little lazy.

 

In my book, The Power of More – How Small Steps Help You Achieve Big Goals – I wrote about the possible disadvantage of being naturally talented. It is my experience if early results come easily one runs the risk of not learning how to be tough and dedicated as a career progresses.

Natural talent can help you to be good, but only thorough and constant preparation will give you the confidence to be great—on demand. For the power of more to work, you have to want to do more on the bad days as much as you want it on the great days—even if the attempt isn’t nearly as much fun on bad days and you risk failing. Being tough is a (badge) that you earn as you train. (And like everything else) you lose (that badge) as soon as you stop being tough.

I don’t think that we have any right to take who we once were – who we still hope to be – for granted anymore. I’m not so sure that we’re all working at it anymore and we all need to be working at it all the time.

It’s not a stretch to assume that (Rob) Ford Nation, which was just recently the majority in Toronto and still has a significant presence, would be firmly behind Donald Trump and all of his populist messaging. I don’t think that this group is some sort of anomaly that exists only around Toronto and can’t be found throughout our great nation. And I think we are drinking the same Kool-Aide that all the American pollsters were drinking if we think that a Trump-like character on a Canadian ballot couldn’t possibly draw out the lazy, NIMBY worst of us.

To be clear I too am one of the ‘we’re better than them’ preachers on the values and virtues of being Canadian. As a nation we had a natural talent to be – and so we were — clean, green, kind and generous. I love thinking that we shun bigotry and racism, that we are open to diversity of faith, sexuality and abilities. I am proud to think that Canadians care for the quality of our environment for this generation and every generation to come. …. but are we actually doing these things today. Am I? Are you? I’m not certain that this is how other nations see us anymore.

Having the potential to be kind, to be a defender of others’ safety, or to be a protector of human rights to doesn’t mean that you are. Only actually stepping up and stepping in makes you so. The sort of kindness and generosity that we believe Canadians represent is more than once-off gestures. Increasingly many expect ‘others’ to do the social conscious heavy lifting. Having advocated for others long ago doesn’t mean that you are their advocate today. Because you voted once does not make you a voter today. Every day we need to care, act, and speak up.

As Canadians we are incredibly fortunate that as a collective – we have a reputation for being naturally kind and inclusive. This is the core of why we have the confidence to believe that this is a great nation. We cannot take what makes it great for granted.

Let’s do more than think that this couldn’t happen in Canada, let’s make certain that it doesn’t. Let’s re-commit to being dedicated to living and leading by the values that we think we have – in the moments when it’s easy to do and in the moments when it’s not so easy to do.

It will be the constant little gestures; supporting comments and inclusions that will continue to define us. How people give and support changes as we ourselves change; some have time, some have money. Some have both and some have neither, but we all have a voice. Doing nothing- saying nothing, when you believe that human rights, dignity and decency are something, paves the way for populist messaging to take a serious hold.

We had hoped that they would choose to be “With Her”; it’s a real shame that enough of them didn’t. What are we Canadians to do about that? We can choose to be with and for each other. I’m with you.

 

After 4 days of Racing in Rio – More of My Thoughts on Canada at the Olympic Rowing Regatta

Hard to call this Olympic racing - certainly not a rowing anyway

Hard to call this Olympic Racing – and certainly not rowing 

 Well really… After 3 days of Racing because there was a postponment 

(and; just 2 days if you don’t count that big surf day as a real racing day… )

If we look back to the “1 pretty sure and 3 maybes” I wrote about before the regatta began Canada is performing to form with the exception of the men’s quad. What a heartbreaker, and to be specific – I’m talking about Rob Gibson’s heart. Unfortunately I think it might be shattered right now – and I can’t blame him (it?).

I’ve often said that the quad event is the most technical. 4 guys, 8 hands and 8 blades moving at the speed of an eight. If you’re on it – it’s magic; if it gets ahead of you – you’re in for trouble. The conditions on Saturday morning were horrendous. Sadly – all lanes were equally horrendous so the FISA Fairness Committee was slow to act; it wasn’t rowing – but it was fair. The Canadian quad was behind, but was absolutely moving into a position that would have given them a pass into the finals and a shot at the medals. In a flash moment that every rower has nightmares about – Rob Gibson lost his grip on one of his oars. It’s understandable – he was sweaty= slippery, he was soaked by the waves = slippery, and he was in the last few 100m of the race = tired hands = slippery. He lost it, it spun around, he couldn’t get it back and they dropped to last position. That was tough to watch.

The heartbreak came in their repechage. Anyone would have Continue reading