Last weekend I was honoured to give a presentation to a group of families at “Camp He Ho Ha” in Alberta, the first of four I’ll be doing for Muscular Dystrophy Canada this year. And I’m not kidding when I say it was (and is) an honour to speak to these groups; anytime we surround ourselves with people whose hearts, minds and souls soar DESPITE their families being affected by an illness like M.D. it’s a true inspirational experience, and this group didn’t disappoint! I’m especially excited to know that there are still many future events ahead where I’ll have an the opportunity to speak on behalf of this wonderful organization.
But with this honour came a challenge – what would I speak about? After all, the reason I was invited to speak on behalf of Muscular Dystrophy Canada was because one of their executives saw my TEDx Stanley Park talk and thought I’d be a good fit to speak to our tribe; so far so good.
But upon reflection, I questioned if my TEDx message of avoiding procrastination – complete with the “punch” of how my son lost his ability to walk due to M.D. – would have gravity with families who have experienced this exact same thing in their own lives – wouldn’t it be a little bit like telling them their own story? Of course it would; and with this realization, came my dilemma.
So what to talk about? What can I say that would perhaps offer some inspiration or ideas to people who experience the same challenges as we do, each and every day? And then it hit me…
Like most folks, my life has also been an interesting one chock full of unique experiences, adventures, a few successes and – of course – a billion failures, all of which have taught me some very valuable life lessons. The acknowledgment of this got me wondering which lessons (a) stuck the most, and (b) had served me the best throughout my life? Then (and with a little reflection) something interesting occurred; I noticed common threads and patterns appear throughout the various experiences, which was an epiphany that gave me an idea: Why not present my best four key ideas, philosophies, strategies – whatever you want to call them – learned in my “pre-M.D. life”, and then talk about how I’ve applied them in my “post-M.D.” life… sounds pretty smart, eh?
Well I don’t know about smart; but it was effective! My speech was well received, with many parents telling me afterwards and that while they’d incorporated some of these ideas before, the talk had sparked some even bigger ideas how to apply them in the future. This feedback was music to my ears, and all I could think of was one thing: Mission Accomplished! So what did I talk about? I’m so glad you asked!
Four Big Ideas
The following are the four key “Big Ideas” from my speech. And while each was learned early on in life, all have applied many times since, dealing with both M.D. related issues as well as issues from life in general. I hope you also find value in them, and can see how applying any of them might also help you with your own challenges. So if you’re ready, let’s get going!
Big Idea #1: Always Say “Hello” First. Being a Navy brat, my family moved all the time – I mean like, every six to eight months – until we finally settled down when I was about twelve years old. Put it this way: By the time I (unsuccessfully) finished high school I’d attended aproximately ten or eleven schools in Canada and the United Kingdom. But here’s the thing: After the first couple of moves my siblings and I noticed that being “The new kid” in school didn’t have to be hard, if we only followed our mom’s excellent advice. She told us to walk up to the first kids we saw and enthusiastically introduce ourselves by saying “Hi! I’m David!” and the rest would take care of itself.
My mom must have been a genius because every time we did this, two things happened. First, we’d have new best friends by lunchtime; and secondly at five o’clock they’d usually be having dinner at our house! Because of this, regardless of wherever I am I always made a point of saying an enthusiastic “Hi!” to everyone I meet; and all these years later, I’ve also come to understand the HUGE benefit that comes from doing so…
Saying “Hi” to strangers opens conversations; it’s the beginning point of what could turn out to be an amazing friendship, companionship, partnership or opportunity to help someone, or be helped ourselves. Saying “Hi” opens a door to so many possibilities for greatness to enter our lives – greatness we can contribute to or benefit from only if the door is opened. What my mother taught me at an early age was to open as many doors as possible by saying “Hello!” first; because if we don’t, then who will? More importantly what opportunities will be lost if no introduction is made? Not saying “Hi” might just mean we fail to connect with someone who could have been very important in our lives, or vice versa; is that really a chance worth taking by skipping a tiny two letter word? I don’t think so!
Besides, you’ll have to trust me when I say this single idea put to action over the years has introduced me to a lot of incredible people… and if you are reading this, you are definitely one of them!
Big Idea #2: Ask And Ye Shall Receive. This idea is so powerful I wrote a post about it last year; it’s simply the notion of asking for the things we want out of life, be it the last piece of pizza, a discount on a shirt at The Gap or better still – the opportunity to be given the chance to do something truly important in life.
I learned the true value of asking for what I wanted years ago when
doing time living in Prince George. I was new in town, and wanted to work at the best corporate hotel in the city. I won’t bore you with the details, but let’s just say after being told to “leave your resume” on four separate occasions I mustered up the courage to contact the hotel’s big dog – The General Manager – and asked him to meet with me since I would be an outstanding employee he wouldn’t want to get away. He agreed; and after our meeting I spent the next eight years working with that company, beginning as the coffee shop manager, and working my way up corporate consultant for the whole chain… not a bad return simply for “asking” for ten minutes of someone’s time, don’t ya think?
On it’s own, this is a fun little story, but did it offer any value to my audience of M.D. families last weekend? It absolutely did; because years later I used this exact same strategy to “ask” for $32,000 in funding to purchase important medical equipment for Tristan. And while it was a much harder (and longer) process than requesting ten minutes of someone’s time, the process was exactly the same… I began by ASKING FOR WHAT I WANTED; only this time it took many conversations with several people, over and over again, in a one-year period to receive what I was asking for.
The bottom line is this: If we don’t learn to ask for the things we want, we won’t ever get them, and you know why? Because the “getting” of things (be they material things, experiences, discounts, a date with that cute guy/gal, etc.) is reserved for the askers, not the “hopers” and “wishers”. Once this idea is understood, a major piece of the life puzzle is cracked, and we can then begin getting the things we want out of life; you know, like the $32,000 bed my son now sleeps comfortably on every night.
Big Idea #3: Constant Self-Education Is Critical To Success. My being a failure in high school brought with it many feelings and emotions: Shame, embarrassment, low self-worth and self-esteem, etc. Oh sure, I was a hard worker; and after attending cooking school achieving a Head Chef position sounded impressive, none of it mattered, since I knew this line of work would never bring in the income needed to live the life I wanted. Then, in a stroke of luck I discovered a book called “Seeds of Greatness – The Ten Best Kept Secrets to Success”… I mean seriously? I didn’t even know there was one best kept secret, let a lone ten! I plunked down five bucks, then ran all the way home where I literally devoured the whole book in 24 hours.
To say this book changed my life is an understatement! Honestly, the guy who picked up that book up felt lonely, stupid, uneducated and unworthy of success; but the guy who put it down felt empowered, strong and had a new definition of what “education” is, was, and could be. Best of all, I realized that “Education” wasn’t (spoiler alert!) limited to all those things that made me feel dumb in high school! I soon picked up another book, then another, and so on; next I graduated to cassette programs like Tony Robbins “Personal Power”, then onto live seminars were I got to meet the likes of T.R., Jim Rohn and David Chilton in person. And with all of this activity, my idea of what education and success kept expanding and growing.
Today my philosophy on education is best summed up by these two phrases:
- “Traditional education brings traditional results” ~ Tony Robbins
- “Traditional education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune” ~ Jim Rohn
Here are four important lessons learned through my self-education; and while none of them will necessarily put letters behind your name, they’ll give help you understand that success comes from taking complete responsibility for your situation; then doing whatever you need to in order to get the desired result.
- We all learn differently; but the most important thing is to actually do the work and study your topic
- Whatever your topic is, the book (or website) has been written and is available NOW. However, it’s up to you to find them, and READ them
- Success leaves clues; and these materials are full of clues written by people who have “been there, done that” – but again, they won’t read themselves
- No-one is alone in their quest for success; but it’s up to THEM to go find their tribe
Big Idea Number #4: Ask Yourself “What Has To Happen For X To Occur?”. I love this idea because it’s so simple and valuable at the same time. Whenever we want to accomplish anything, all we need to do is ask ourselves this one question (obviously substituting what it is we want for the “X”) and we’ll begin to get the answers we need to achieve our goal, and you know why? It’s pretty simple, actually: We will always answer any question we ask ourselves, each and every time, but there’s a trick to doing this effectively; and it all comes in the way we craft those questions. Since we’ll get an answer to any question we ask ourselves, it’s critical to our success that we always word our questions so as to get positive answers to them.
For example, let’s say Bob’s work day is not going well – enough so that it’s causing him some frustration and anger. If he asks himself “Why am I having such a crappy day?” his brain will search for (and list off) all the things that have gone wrong that day. First there was that spilled coffee at breakfast, and then running out of hot water during his morning shower; then there was the fruitless search for a missing sock (which he never did find) that wasted 10 minutes, and made him miss his bus; oh, and don’t forget the inconsiderate smoker who stunk up the bus stop and made Bob’s coat smell, etc. – you get the idea. Bob’s brain is bringing forth all the answers it can to address the exact question he asked of “Why am I having such a crappy day?”
But what if in the same situation Bob asked himself a better question – one that was designed to get his brain to search for positive results rather than negative ones? What then? Let’s find out!
Bob’s work day is going terrible! He missed his bus and got in late for his meeting, couldn’t find the report he needed, and realized his conference call began half an hour earlier than he thought, and he was finding himself right behind the eight-ball… what if rather than focusing on what a crappy day he was having, he asked himself “What has to happen for me to manger this situation effectively; more importantly, what has to happen so I don’t go through all this again tomorrow?”
As Bobs brain searches for answers to these exact questions, he’ll probably get answers like “get up earlier so as not to be rushed in the morning” and “make sure I check my calendar the night before so I’m prepared for my meetings and calls the following day”, etc. – far more productive ideas than blaming a missing sock for a blown conference call, wouldn’t you say?
I’ve used this exact question to flush out what had to happen to plan huge holidays (Like this one! Shameless plug!) or running a bunch of errands around town; I’ve used it to plan amazing adventures with my family, and to help my son have unique experiences despite his muscular dystrophy. I’ve even used this question in helping to plan my mom’s funeral, so as to make sure the memorial was held in a nice place where she’d have enjoyed saying good-bye to her friends and family. So many different situations, yet always the same question… crazy, right?
Try using this question next time you have a dilemma or challenge to tackle. Ask yourself “What has to happen for X to occur?” and then brainstorm on finding solutions to your problem, rather than more reasons why you have a problem in the first place. Take this approach and I promise you will see things much differently than our friend Bob.
So there you have them – my four big ideas from life that were worthy enough to make it into my speech last week. I hope you liked them; and if so, please drop me a line in the comments below and let me know how they worked out for you.
As always, thanks for stopping by! Have and amazing day!