Or: A brief history of my life (so far).
Shortly after my dad died, my mother said something I’ll never forget. She said, “I don’t know where you got your ambition from; your father certainly wasn’t an ambitious man”. I now believe this was mom’s way of saying that, despite my approach to life being the complete polar opposite to my father’s, in her books I was still A-Okay.
A ROUND PEG IN A SQUARE HOME
Mom was right: My father and I were as different as chalk and cheese. As a mid-level officer in the Royal Canadian Navy, dad’s responsibilities included following orders, completing assigned tasks, and never questioning orders or authority figures- not that there’s anything wrong with this. And while such a restricted role suited him just fine, it would have driven me nuts.
Unlike my father, I’ve always been the “it’s better to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission” type. I curiously question everything, relentlessly challenge out-dated and/or ineffective policies, and will happily jump into any dark abyss with my eyes shut and fingers crossed. As long as there’s something to be learned in the process, I don’t even mind a little egg on my face.
Sadly, these oil and water approaches to life made my father and I virtual strangers, most notably during my teen years when he rarely spoke to me. When I failed high school however, dad quickly blamed my immature and undisciplined approach to life (a.k.a. not his) and suggested I think about moving out. Four days later -on my 18th birthday- I did just that.
HARD WORK + SELF-EDUCATION = OPPORTUNITY + SELF-DISCOVERY
Within one week of being labelled a failure by society, I was broke, alone and had bills to pay. I took a job as a prep cook where -despite the long hours and menial work- I saw an opportunity to learn how restaurants worked. Luckily, my bosses appreciated my positive attitude and strong work ethic, and made sure I got fed each shift. Thank God, since without those free meals I’d gone hungry a lot. Their kindness also taught me how good bosses treat their employees.
I started reading self-help books and attending seminars, applying the habits, strategies and philosophies I’d learn in my life and work. Anything that sounded solid, I tried. When I failed, I’d try something different; in fact I’d keep on trying different things until eventually achieving the outcome I wanted. Being both stubborn and determined, I refused to ever give up on myself.
Thanks to hard work and self-education, my career grew exponentially over the next three decades. Shortly after receiving a culinary diploma, I left kitchens to work in management and leadership positions in several large corporate hotel brands. For years I balanced this work out with a lucrative side-hustle as an operational consultant for hotel restaurants and bars.
After making a name for myself in the corporate hotel world, I was ready for a change and was serendipitously recruited as a (20%) owner/operator of a new restaurant & bar at a popular ski resort. With loads of flair, we opened with a bang, found immediate success amongst both locals and tourists, and were quickly the talk of the (albeit tiny) resort.
Meanwhile, at home I was madly in love with my sweet one-year-old son Tristan whom I adored to the moon and back. At the time, life seemed perfect; what could possibly go wrong?
A HARD LEFT; AND THEN AN EVEN HARDER ONE
A few months after the restaurant opened, things began unravelling at home. I was blindsided by a difficult (and costly) divorce, and suddenly found myself out of the home I’d purchased just six weeks earlier. This was followed with a dispute around reasonable and fair access to my boy.
At the time I thought a custody dispute was the worst thing any father could experience; that was until a few years after when my (five-year-old) son was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, an insidious disease that would render Tristan a paraplegic in a few short years.
The shock and pain of divorce was quickly dwarfed by the raw, hard truth of my son’s diagnosis. You know the maxim “life is short”? D.M.D. instantly brought it home for both Tristan as an individual, and for me as his father. I felt an overwhelming responsibility to ensure we had as many cool experiences and grand adventures as possible… so we did. (For more, watch my TEDx)
Over the years our adventures included things like a month in Europe, a Disney cruise, swimming with the dolphins, and even a tandem parasailing flight in Mexico! Ironically, as cool as these “big” adventures were, Tristan’s favourite pastimes were our weekly trips to the local swimming pool with his buddies or enjoying an “after-haircut” donut at Tim Hortons. Go figure.
OUR LEGACIES TOMORROW ARE DETERMINED BY OUR ACTIONS TODAY
20 + years ago D.M.D. reminded me just how fragile life can be; Most of all, it taught me not to procrastinate on doing important things today, as tomorrow may be too late. Since then I’ve sought to live life to the fullest, and in every way. 20 + years later, I can honestly say I have.
If my journey has taught me anything, it’s these two important life lessons:
- True happiness and fulfilment are available for anyone who takes full responsibility for their life
- The happiest and most fulfilled people always extend heartfelt love and kindness towards others
Today I share inspiring, real life stories and examples that prove happy and fulfilling lives (whatever they may look like) are available for anyone who wants them. If this is a message you feel your employees, or the audience at your next event need to hear live and in person, please contact me HERE.