Category Archives: How do you define success?

Celebrating taxes, or at least the right kind of taxes

Grumble, grumble, grumble . . . What a huge chunk of money disappears from my pay cheques. Mutter, mutter, mutter . . . What an inconvenience all these tax forms are.

True. All true. But I don’t have to go far to notice my tax dollars at work.

I watch out my front window as a garbage truck comes right to my door and picks up my garbage. Amazing. When I was a kid on the farm, we had to drive it to a dump.

When I drive to the store, I feel safe on our roads. They are well maintained in Canada. In the winter municipal workers paid by my tax dollars salt the roads and clear them of snow. I know the other drivers on the road have insurance; provincial government workers paid by my tax dollars monitor this. If I do happen to get hurt in an accident, the hospital that receives me won’t cause me to fall into financial ruin. My provincial health care system, paid for by tax dollars, protects me.

When I shower, the water flows away through a municipal water-sewer system.

My son heads to school. How lucky are we Canadians? Our kids receive education. A precious gift. (Read about how I learned to cherish education in my post “Transformative Moments”.)

Our tax-funded societal structures are so integrated into our lives, a day cannot pass without us taking advantage of at least one of them. We take them for granted. We pay for them because we want to build a progressive society. We pay because we want people to have access to clean water, education, and health care.

Now, I won’t shove aside or ignore the long history of tax resistance in our country and around the world. Taxes are not always so wonderful. Check out the long list of incidences of tax resistance on Wikipedia. Whoa. Clearly we need to be vigilant. But with checks and balances in place to ensure governments are good stewards of our money, what we end up with is a pool of money with which to administer large, complex systems that would be too large and complex to administer on an individual level.

No tax system or the government that runs it is perfect, but even with some wrinkles, tax money remains the most efficient way for a country to take care of its citizens.

One of the most celebrated happy taxpayers is J.K. Rowling. The British billionaire author received welfare payments in the past. She now willingly pays taxes to her government to help out her fellow citizens.

When my life hit rock bottom, that safety net, threadbare though it had become under John Major’s Government, was there to break the fall.” —J.K. Rowling

At tax time we’re often so busy grumbling about what we disappears from us, we forget to celebrate what, so effortlessly, comes back our way. 

Tax money disappears from us and then reappears in a different form. 

 

Thermostat or thermometer: Martin Luther King III

The 16,000 enthusiastic kids at National We Day saw video excerpts from the famous “I have a dream” speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. The speech is moving anytime, anywhere, but on a big screen in a big venue with big sound and a big audience, well, it was hair-raisingly powerful.

His son, Martin Luther King III, then took the stage to share lessons learned from his father. One lesson was: Do you want to be a thermostat or a thermometer?

Do you want to report on conditions around you, or do you want to regulate what happens? Do you want to do nothing more than sit back and observe, or do you want to take action to make things more comfortable for everyone?

Good questions.

________________

 

National We Day: http://www.weday.com/2014/04/national-we-day-rocked/

 

 

No “can’t’; No “won’t”; Only “how”: Spencer West

I’ll be volunteering at National We Day here in Ottawa, Canada tomorrow. We Day, an event affiliated with Free The Children and Me to We, is a music and inspiration-filled concert that energizes kids and inspires them to shift their view of the world from “me” to “‘we.” Craig and Marc Kielburger, founders of Free the Children, want to free children locally and internationally from poverty and oppression, and they want to free children from the belief that they are powerless to effect change.

I attended a training session last night along with hundreds of other volunteers. If we held any lingering doubts about our abilities to handle our assigned tasks, out guest speaker put those doubts to rest.

Spencer West climbed the stairs to speak to us. That one simple act inspired us, for Spencer West has no legs. But no matter. He has done outreach work in Africa, he has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, and he travels the world speaking and encouraging people to effect change. One of speaking topics is: No Can’t, No Won’t, Only How: Overcoming Obstacles to Make a Difference.

It’s easy to imagine that Spencer West heard the words “can’t” or “won’t” many times in his life. His ability to climb over those words to get to the word “how” inspires the rest of us to climb over our own surmountable obstacles.

The kids attending the concert tomorrow couldn’t buy a ticket to attend; they had to earn it. Schools and groups commit to taking one local and one global action to earn their way.

Perhaps we can take a cue from them: one local and one global action. If “can’t” or “won’t” pop into your head, brush those words aside and look for “how.” It’s easy. Certainly easier than climbing Mount Kilimanjaro without legs.

Life questions from a hockey great: Bobby Orr

9780670066971HNear the end of Orr: My Story, Bobby Orr lists some questions hockey prospects need to ask themselves before they pursue the elusive and improbable goal of becoming an NHL hockey player. When I read the questions first, I considered them in terms of hockey. But my son is a competitive baseball player, so I read them a second time from an “any competitive sport” perspective. Then I read them a third time as life questions that apply to everyone.

His questions touch on our willingness to take risks, persevere, make mature decisions, maintain self-confidence, accept responsibility and live with injustice. They don’t just apply to young people starting out; they apply to everyone, everywhere.

His original questions have a hockey slant. I paraphrase them to apply to life in general:

  • Are you willing to move away from home? If your life dream requires you to leave safety and security and venture out on your own, could you do it?
  • Are you prepared to work hard each and every day and always give your best effort no matter how those efforts are rewarded?
  • Are you willing to pick up after yourself and your teammates, load and unload and do other physical work for the good of everyone?
  • Are you prepared to get little recognition or be excluded from some projects early on because you’re the newest member of the team?
  • Are you prepared to deal with bosses who are angry because your team lost or performed poorly? You may find yourself punished without any clear communication from the boss. This could make it appear you are the cause of the loss or poor performance. Are you prepared for that?
  • Are you able to remain positive and work hard when you make a mistake?
  • Are you prepared to move to another team with a new boss if circumstances change?
  • Will you be able to disregard any negative remarks made toward you by co-workers or others?
  • Will you have the courage to tell friends or co-workers that you are tired or have work to do if they want you to go to a party or for a beer when you know it’s not where you should be?
  • Will you have the courage to say no to any form of drug offered to you?
  • If a teammate or friend is doing something wrong, will you have the courage to tell them and to distance yourself from them?
  • When you succeed, there will be people who resent your success. Will you be able to stay away from people who are jealous of you and want you to fail?

No matter how old we are or what job we do, we face questions and circumstances like these.

How we respond makes the difference between success and failure.

 

Harold and the Purple Crayon: How we create our own world

9780062086525

Parenthood provides the opportunity for fully grown adults to re-capture childhood joys. When my children were younger, I re-captured some childhood joy when I came across the book Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson.

As a child I loved the simple sketches and fun story, but as an adult I appreciate the profound spiritual truths that lie at its heart.

My friend Harold begins his story in chaos, with his purple crayon scribbling all over. Then he decides he needs a moon to light his way and solid ground on which to walk. With these two necessities in place, he begins his journey.

harold-chaos

At first, not wanting to get lost, he creates a straight path for himself.

harold-straight-path

The straight path soon loses his interest, so he decides he needs a tree, and that the tree needs some apples. Wouldn’t they be delicious?

harold-apples

As soon as he has apples though, he worries that someone might steal them. He creates a frightening dragon to defend his treasure. The dragon is so frightening, it scares even Harold, so he falls backwards into the wavy ocean that his trembling hand squiggles out for him.

harold-dragon

Soon Harold is in way over his head.

harold-over-his-head

To save himself, he creates a boat, and then a sail, and then a shore upon which to land.

harold-ashore

Harold takes himself on an adventurous journey complete with delicious pies, friends, hot air balloon rides, large cities and helpful guides. The moon accompanies him on every page.

harold-guide

Eventually he grows so tired he wants to go home to bed. He remembers that his bedroom window is always right around the moon, so he draws himself his bedroom window and his big comfy bed. He crawls in and goes to sleep.

harold-at-home

This beautiful story shows spirit (the moon) and our physical world (the solid ground) created out of chaos. With the moon shining on him always and the ground solid underneath, Harold uses the purple crayon (free will, the Source, Universal Mind, whatever you choose to call it) to shape his life. He creates fun times, hard times, dangers and solutions to his problems.

I keep a copy of this book on the shelf beside my desk. When I look at the cover, it returns me to a quiet centre. It makes me ask questions: Which fearful events and situations have I created for myself? What solution can I create, or draw, to solve those problems? What positive and fun things can I draw next?

It reminds me that spirit is always shining down on me and that the ground is solid beneath my feet. It reminds me that the path my life takes lies in my own hand.

And it humbles me, because at the root of everything lies the unanswerable question: Where does the purple crayon come from?

Build castles, don’t dig graves

McMaster UniversityFrom The Magic of Thinking Big by David J. Schwartz: 

“Build castles, don’t dig graves.”

We sabotage our dreams—our castles—before we even allow ourselves to begin to build them. We want a career change, but we tell ourselves we’re too old. We want a new house, but we tell ourselves we could never afford it. We want to go back to school, but we tell ourselves that we’re not smart enough.

We have dreams, but we bury them in graves of self-doubt.

Most of the time the dreams that we deem impossible are actually very much possible—if we dare to begin to build. We can take on a new career in our middle-age and enjoy satisfying work for several decades. We can save just a little more and spend just a little less until the new house becomes a reality. We can take the first brave step to register for a course that really intrigues us and discover that it’s not so difficult after all.

Decide what castle you want to build and place a first brave stone. Then don’t heed the temptation to shovel dirt unto that dream.

Build castles, don’t dig graves.

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