Starbucks Card Collection

One of my fun minihobbies this year was to collect Starbucks cards. There are hundreds of them out there, many of them being country-specific. Here’s the definitive fan listing for all the cards. Thanks to some very generous customers, my collection includes a few older and interesting cards. Thanks to my own hard work, I have a super unique card in my collection: my own custom issued partner card. My Gold Card will be coming once I get the required stars using my now-registered Partner Card, and as I travel around the world in coming years I’ll be adding more and more cards to my collection. Now to think of a cool way to display them all!

An Expression of the Heart

“To express yourself needs a reason, but expressing yourself is the reason.” – Ai Weiwei

Over the past months I’ve been nose-to-the-grindstone busy. I’ve been working just as hard as I was while on the farm, just retooled back here in the city.

I have to admit, it’s taken me some time to get over the sudden transplant shock of farm to city life. I guess in retrospect it’s clear: it’s always easier to embrace something new and exciting, as was my city-to-farm transition. The newness of the animals and the many adventures was intoxicatingly delicious. It was a feast for my brain and body, and both were well nourished throughout the year. I gave myself an opportunity I never had growing up – the stereotypical “uncle/cousin lives on a farm and I spent some time there too”. I learned so much about myself, the world, and life in general, often at the strangest and most unpleasant times like mucking out the barn! I know now that farming was and is one of the missing pieces in both the puzzle of life and my heart. As with each year, my purpose in the here and now becomes more clear.

Of course, with the good comes the bad. Every silver lining has a cloud, or however that strange saying goes. It was the inevitable challenge from the universe: my true and final test into the realm of adulthood. I went through the classic 5 stages of grief, albeit with a much longer bargaining period (greatly facilitated with another similarly lost soul) and a hastily tacked-on acceptance phase. In reality, who else wouldn’t when faced with the hard sell that your tolerably comfortable life will now radically and uncontrollably self-destruct.

As I always do, I’ll not lie: the process was the most painful experience I’ve had in my life; hands down the toughest challenge my emotions and pocketbook have ever been met with. However I see now that everything was the result of choices I made either consciously or subconsciously, and I stand by every one of them, with two large caveats: I wish I had made these choices more consciously, and more quickly.

These two key points are life lessons I have already integrated into my existence, and I am bewildered by the sheer effectiveness. With each passing day I further free myself from what my emotional and primitive subconscious self desires/is told to desire. Each step away from that is a step towards the polar opposite: directly channeling my conscious self towards achieving the goals and dreams I’ve always desired.

And what’s even more bewildering is this: it works.

I guess I expected it to not work, because, well, if it’s this simple, why hasn’t everyone else figured it out? …Maybe I’ll have more of an answer after hours/years of reflection.

Throughout this past year I set a goal to learn about business and the way the financial world works. My reasons were many: to understand the reasons for my farm venture’s lack of success; to mute the subconscious emotional banter in my brain; to prepare myself for my upcoming decades of achievement. On all three grounds my efforts have been met with great success! I’ve gained a much greater value from my farm enterprise after reflecting back on it with lenses of entrepreneurial knowledge; I’ve found many ideas and quotes which will continue to help me understand and enjoy the emotional rollercoaster ride known as life.

However most importantly, just as with my farm, I’ve found yet another one of my Trivial Pursuit-styled heart pieces. Rather, the businesswoman/entrepreneur in me was always there, it was simply being buried underneath the endless stream of “should do’s” and “must be’s” told to us by the world (and even more cunningly, our own subconscious minds).

I now know the price for denying your true self: endless unhappiness and misery. I won’t be making that mistake ever again! It’s cosmically funny that it took going through all the pain to get to this level of understanding, and that without the pain I wouldn’t be this wiser person I am now. My life truly IS my artistic masterpiece, and I’ve suffered for it. But I’m so glad to have gone through it, as I am now stronger and better than before, and thus capable of so much more than what I’ve achieved up to date. Or another way of putting it: I shudder to think of where I’d be had I instead chosen to changed nothing on that fateful day in September.

Friends, I want this message to inspire you, to put confidence back into your shoes. I truly think that confidence and inspiration are what we need in the zany world we live in today. Our purpose in existence has been corrupted by those who would have us do nothing but buy everything, those who would have us slave away at satisfying subconscious whims instead of empowering us to rise above them and achieve greatness. Modern society has bankrupted itself selling us this twisted message: “Pain is shameful. Failing is shameful AND painful. You’re better off not even trying. Don’t work hard. Just buy this answer.”

Me and my zero dollars are here to sell you another message:
Don’t believe in no. Failure is simply the step to success. Take what you learn from it and move on to the next big thing. Learn from pain, it’s not shameful to have it, it’s human!

I know it feels weird to read this, as it felt very weird to be thinking this over the course of the past year. But I’ve come to accept that this is the message my true self has been screaming out these past few years. I’m simply glad I’ve chosen to start listening to it instead of trying to cover it up for more years.

Let this be a testament to those looking for the same.

Making More Time with Helpful Tools

As I’ve discussed before, one of my current challenges is finding enough time in my day to fit in all the various tasks I need and want to accomplish. Reducing the task list is not an option – dishes need to get done, and you must always budget time to reflect on your dreams and progress. The only viable option is to make my pipelines more efficient, so that’s what I’ve been working on. I’m glad to report that I’ve found a few new tools that help make my day much easier! Sharing is caring, so here they are.

Pinterest   http://pinterest.com/     My userpage
Pinterest, a fusion of pin and interest, lets you easily create a collage of inspirational source materials. You simply click on the “Pin It” bookmarklet tool on the page with your inspiration, a popup lets you write a quick note and you select the board you want to pin it to, and voila, there it is for you and all the community to see. The nature of this tool allows you to browse other people’s boards, which can offer a trove of further inspiration and sharing!

Up until now, I’ve had a problem in my life in that I encounter so many cool and interesting ideas but I don’t have enough time to blog about each one. Pinterest lets me keep a hold of these inspirations without requiring the overhead that a blog post does. This tool helps solve my problem of keeping my inspirations on file, accessible, and visible to help inspire others.

Workflowy  https://workflowy.com/
Workflowy is one of the most simple yet powerful tools I’ve seen. In a nutshell, it’s a glamourized Notepad to-do list. But oh the glamour it has! It takes a node-based approach to to-do items, allowing each item to itself be the title of another to-do list. This recursion allows you to pre-plan and list out each element of your brainstorm. It also has #hashtag capabilities as well as a completed indicator and user sharability/editability. These features help take it from a simple to-do list into a powerful project management tool.

For me, The phrase “I love lists” is a gross understatement. I believe so strongly in lists! It’s simple: if you write down your desires and the steps it takes to get to them, all you need to do is that first step. There are no excuses when you have a list. You can see why I highly value a tool that helps me make and share such lists.

Of course, I continue to use Google Reader as the way to catch up on all the many blogs I read, although I’m disappointed with their new interface redesign. The first rule of design is “Don’t impede the primary purpose”, but they broke this by allocating less screen space to the blog posts and more to the menus around those posts… A silly mistake. A novice mistake, actually, one that leads to competition beating you.

Another tool I use to keep up to date with friends etc is the very popular Facebook. I’ve noticed with their recent improvements, more people have been sharing more diverse content, so in a way it acts as an information hub now more than it ever did before. I love the convenience it offers me in keeping up to date with friends, but as a tool for new discovery, I find it’s completely lacking. Facebook is for friends you already have, not for meeting new friends. That saddens me a bit, as I do love to meet new people and see new ways of thinking.

For that, I find Flickr is an excellent tool. There are tons of pools of content dedicated to certain topics, like cupcakes, home design, graphic design, photography, etc. Its community aspects are some of the best available. I find Flickr is very lacking in embracing new development ideas though, for example uploading video still has many limits (format, time, etc) despite how common video capturing is nowadays.

Over the past weeks my learning has included a focus on leverage and how important it is in being successful in business and life. Think about a lever – by using a stick (a tool) and a fulcrum (a certain piece of knowledge in a certain position), you can move a huge object with little effort. You literally do more with less: leverage. This principle can be applied to other areas in life, such as in business: by having an employee use tools and knowledge to create huge effects with little effort, you leverage them and create value. Of course, you already have the best tool possible: your brain. You simply need a fulcrum to let you use it to its maximum potential.

The tools I’ve listed above let me do more with less, they let me leverage my time and energy into something more than just seconds and potential. They let me capture and streamline the processing of information, and as I’ve come to re-learn, information is knowledge, and knowledge truly IS power. By using tools like this, I’m able to make myself stronger, do more with less. What more could a busy person ask for?

Time for Myself

It’s amazing how much difference a few months can make. A year ago I was harvesting vegetables on my farm, now I’m back in Barrhaven pouring lattes and cooking up elaborate meals. Unexpected, quite; then again it seems life has a way of choosing the unexpected over the expected, almost as if it gets a thrill out of the resulting chaos and calamity.

Mom, I finally understand your thoughts regarding time being your currency. This very moment I’m beaming with happiness simply because I found the time to sit down and write these words, as time is what I’m seriously lacking nowadays. I have so many thoughts and ideas and plans but so little time to actually sit and write them down, let alone take steps towards achieving any of them. Yet this doesn’t stop the ideas from flowing. Many days I feel like a boulder in a rushing stream – unable to join the movement of energy despite being surrounded by nothing else.

Throughout this year I’ve been reading so many books – more specifically, so many different genres of books. Business books. Photography books. Finance books. Personal development books. Kids’ books. Cooking books. Psychology textbooks. Even a manga-style comic book, a format I’d never actually read before (in English, that is). I’m also reading these books in a completely different way than I did before, and as such I’m starting to gain a much deeper knowledge from them, far more than the mere sum of the words themselves. Tiny droplets of thoughts start beading up in my brain, then trickle down into each other to form interesting ideas and “what if’s”, which flow and pick up speed, combining with other ideas until they reach the rushing flow of ideas past and present alike.

And they add to the volume.

I’m starting to realize now that over recent years I’ve been adding quite a lot of volume to my idea pool without taking much of it out. University was a good outlet, although the high levels of creativity often added more volume just as fast as the pool was depleted. Same with my farming adventure, it was a great outlet but added more ideas and dreams just as fast. Nowadays though, my lack of long chunks of free time combined with plenty of tiny pockets of time here and there is the perfect combination for disaster – my brain has just enough time to spark ideas and add to the pool, but I have no time to dedicate to emptying it out.

No wonder I sometimes feel as if I’m drowning. It seems I’m doing exactly that.

Until now.

The most wonderful thing about being honest with yourself and your potential is that it doesn’t hurt to say, “Hey self, if you don’t like it, it’s time to change it.” On the contrary, it feels amazing to have that level of frankness with yourself. I know many people disagree, subconsciously choosing to accept a version of reality where their life is simply a result of consequences beyond their control. However I have long since learned that if one is honest and frank with themselves, if one fully embraces cause and effect and chooses to look at themselves and their actions non-judgmentally yet critically, if one identifies their weaknesses and learns from their mistakes then continues to dream and attain bigger and better: you truly become the master of your own destiny. Everything is possible. Life is no longer like a box of chocolates, it’s the entire chocolate factory, and you are Charlie.

With that in mind, I’ll be taking some time for myself, time to sort out some thoughts that need sorting, working on either emptying out the idea pool or digging it deeper. One way or another, this imbalance will be fixed, I promise me that.

Don

Yesterday afternoon I had the pleasure of meeting a pleasant and enriched fellow by the name of Don. Today, through my words, you’ll meet him too.

Wanting a bottle of something special to celebrate signing our condo lease, I walked into the LCBO in the exact same manner I always do, and encountered something that’s not always there: a company representative offering free samples. He is an older man with grey hair and kind eyes. I glance at him but pass him by in favour of finding my drink of choice.

Returning to the cash, he caught my eye again, and I listened to my intuition and headed over to say hello. He greeted me fondly and began to talk about the product – a hard lemonade with Jack Daniel’s whisky, perfectly timed for our hot summer. He recalled an amusing story of his own experience with the product. I gladly took the sample, much to his delight as it meant his job was done for the day.

Now, I’ll take a second to mention that in the past year I’ve been doing so much thinking and studying and growing, that I see pretty much everything in life much more differently nowadays. When it comes to people, I am a more astute listener and I engage with them on a deeper level than I did prior in my life. I’ll be sharing these thoughts in many future blog posts, but for now it will suffice to say that instead of simply being done with my sample and walking away, I took the chance to give this person the center stage for a bit and see what they would do.

I asked him this simple question: “How do you find your job? Do you like what you do?”

Don’s eyes lit up, and he eagerly jumped in to telling me his story. I spent a good ten minutes listening to Don talk about the laid-back aspects of the job (respectful scheduling, he’s his own boss), the places he gets to visit (all over Ontario and elsewhere, and Nova Scotia next month for his personal vacation), and how much fun he has interacting with samplers. “Once you’ve done this for as long as I have, you find there are categories of people, it gets easier to know what kind of a person they are.” I couldn’t resist asking Don what kind of a person he thought I was based on our small interaction. He smiled. “You’re a happy person! You’re pretty rare actually.”

After shaking his hand and telling him my name, we parted ways, each a little happier and wiser than before we had met.

I look forward to the next day I see Don offering samples, and will fondly say hello to him just as I did yesterday. If you see him, say hello too, I promise you won’t regret it.

An Amazing New Job!

Some might think it’s a bit too early to write about how amazing a new job is after working less than 10 hours at it. In most cases I would have to agree. Today, however, is not a most cases kind of day, for it was the day when it finally sunk in – I’ve found a company that acts with the highest level of integrity I’ve ever seen in my quarter century of life.

Respect, integrity, efficiency, ethical responsibility – the same traits many of us strive to achieve in our lives are so amazingly reflected in every facet of this organization that I came away from my training session feeling humbled at my own relatively small achievements, yet intensely inspired to achieve my greatest dreams! To find this feeling often takes hours of reflection, learning, and growing. To experience it as a job perk seems unfathomable, an offer that truly seems too good to be true; yet this is exactly what happened  today.

Reflecting on the day’s events, the one element that comes to the forefront of my mind was reading the most down-to-earth yet soaring-in-the-stars mission statement I’ve ever encountered; one that, while not denying the fact that this is a revenue-generating business, is far more motivated by the intrinsic rewards gained by being an exemplary member of its community. And unlike the vast majority of other companies, this one simply does not believe that exploiting people to gain greater profit margins is the right thing to do. I support that principle strongly.

Legally speaking, a corporation is a person. We never really think of businesses as an actual human-person like you and I are, but sometimes it’s fun to, like right now: pick a company you interact with regularly and envision them as a person – what are their characteristics and traits, what is their life goal and purpose, where are they heading in 10 years time and how will they get there?

When I envision Walmart, I see a middle aged businessman with piercing blue eyes and a legendary smile. He thrives on selling items and he’s damn great at it, but he’d sell you a medium-quality item at a low price just to see your face again next year. His life goal is to sell at least one item to every person in the world, no matter how he has to gets there.

When I envision Chapters/Indigo, I see the kindest and most gentle elderly woman with a delightful flower-pattered scarf. No matter what the subject, she has the answer to any question you have, but she doesn’t really keep up with today’s fast paced world anymore. When asked about her life goal, she responds,  “Goals? Whatever do you mean, dearie? Things have always been like this, and they will always be like this. Don’t fret about the future.”

When I envision my new company, I see a trendy young adult dressed in whatever clothing expresses themselves best that day – it’s a hot summer day, thus comfy khaki capris, brown sandals, and a t-shirt of their friend’s band paired with a boldly patterned half-buttoned summer dress shirt. Their demeanor exudes a friendly confidence which is irresistibly attractive; when you ask them what their life goal is, their eyes light up as they begin talking about all the wonderful ethical things they are doing and want to do! There’s a sense of youthful naivete underneath all this, but they catch your thought: “Yeah, I dream big. But if I don’t dream big, I won’t achieve big! And when I inevitably make mistakes, I don’t fear them, I learn as much as I can from them and become a better person. There’s no way I can’t succeed with this attitude!”

While all three are completely valid business approaches, this last person is someone I want to hang out with on a personal side of things. With their varied life experience, they have tons of cool tips and tricks to teach, anthologies of experiences to share, and are an amazing storyteller to boot. Now I’m being told that I get to hang out with them AND I get paid to do so… sounds like one heck of an amazing new job!