Thursday, August 17, 2017

Best laid plans

This summer I learned an important business lesson – when Plan A doesn’t work, be ready and embrace Plan B.   To allow the failure of your plans to overtake your dreams, just fosters further disappointment and festers away at your intent.

I had spent at least six months planning a big family trip to Scotland and the Isle of Man to celebrate our 45th wedding anniversary and 50 years of being together as a couple.  We’d decided to celebrate the 50 years now when we were all able to travel, rather than wait.

It was a complicated itinerary, as I worked to ensure everyone got to do what they wanted to do, and we also had some down time and space away from one another.

The first dent in THE PLAN, occurred before we left.  Thank goodness.  We discovered, by chance, that the airline we’d booked our tickets to get to the Isle of Man, had gone into liquidation.  So we had to scramble to get seats with another airline and as I write, we are still trying to get our money back from the first one, but not holding up much hope.

We had gone ahead of the “kids” and were collecting them in Glasgow to head off  together for a few days in the Highlands.   Except, last minute because a truck had hit their plane, their flight was cancelled.  It was 3.00am in the morning before they got checked into a Toronto hotel, where the three of them were left to share one bed.  Ever chivalrous, my son in law, spent the night in a chair.

A day late, we met them at the airport.  Now we’d had to move hotels, as there was “no room at the inn” where we were staying, and with two big concerts taking place in Glasgow, hotel rooms were scarce.  We ended up having to tough it out at a five-star hotel, which while lovely, was not part of our trip budget.

But I had decided early on with these unforeseen delays, that they were not going to spoil our vacation, which they could just as easily have done.  Instead I encouraged everyone to think about the great stories they’d have to share about what had happened. 

And with one day short, we focused more intently on we wanted to do and see in the time left.

As leaders in our businesses (and families) we set the tone.  Being pragmatic and coming up with a Plan B is a good start, but so is having a good attitude. 

As John Lennon once said “life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.”

Thursday, July 20, 2017

A legacy of love

As I listened to Debbie’s daughters describe what she was like, I started to wonder exactly what my daughters and friends would say about me after I died?

It’s an interesting thought isn’t it.  We all want our lives to have meaning, to bring meaning into the lives of others and to leave a legacy that will carry on long after we have gone.

Debbie, who was fondly known as “The Boss.” had played such an important role in planning her memorial service - picking the verses from the bible, the music to be played - that you felt she was in the room, watching over us.

I was listening to a podcast on CBC this week about a man who decided to have a living wake.  He was terminally ill and had chosen to have an assisted suicide, so he knew when he was going to die.  However, rather than the funeral after he was gone, he wanted to host this last party and be there for it.

It was touching listening to the tributes, and I found myself laughing when one friend lamented that the host kept pissing him off, to which he replied it was one of his great talents.  The friend then went on to explain that first he’d retired two years earlier than him, and now he was checking out earlier too.  It was all said with great love and respect.

All of which leads me to thinking that we need to say more to the people we love now while they are alive and able to hear us, and not wait for the eulogy to emotionally share with others about how we felt about the person who has just died.

When I was diagnosed with cancer for the second time,  I announced my news at a Company of Women meeting.   I did so because I wanted the women to go for the mammogram and not put it off, and also because as I said at the time, it was not convenient to “check out” right then, as I was busy and had too much to do.  I was touched by the outpouring of love I received.    

But that’s my point.  We shouldn’t have to wait until someone is dying or gets a cancer diagnosis to share how we feel about that person.  How much happier we would all be if we spoke up now, not when it’s too late for your loved one to hear, about how we feel about them.  

Granted we all show our love differently, as I learned when I read the Five Languages of Love.  For some it’s being of service, kind gestures or thoughtful gifts, for others it is more physical, but I can’t help but think that using our words, actually saying out loud how we feel means that the message is received and understood.

Love.  It is one four-lettered word that is under-used.  Time to change that.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Shedding some light in the darkness of death

None of us really knows what is around the corner.  Guess that’s why it’s best to take each day as it comes, to live life in the moment.

I am reflecting on this because this week has been darkened by news of death.  First the death of a friend’s mother who had cancer, then the 
death of a husband in his prime who took his own life and updates on a husband who knows 
he is dying and is making the most of the time he has left.

Suicide always leaves you with so many questions. Why?  What did we miss?  How could we have changed this outcome?  It is so hard for the family and friends.  It’s an emotional roller coaster – from being distraught and sad to feeling betrayed and angry.
And it is not something to be dismissed or swept under the carpet.

In fact that may be part of the problem.  While mental health issues are getting more recognition as something we have to pay attention to and not hide away from in shame; we still have a long way to go.

I had a cousin who committed suicide.  She’d had a son when she was 17, and as was common at the time, was forced to give him up for adoption.  Three years later, on his birthday, she took an overdose of sleeping pills and died.  Now this was over 50 years ago, and today, many children are born out of “wedlock” and raised by single mothers, but back then, there was a real stigma.

I remember once saying that I thought that suicide was such a selfish act, and I was quickly and correctly admonished by a friend who angrily told me that depression was an illness. It was a disease, one that the person wanted to escape from to end the pain,  with suicide seeming like the only option, the only way out.  

I’ve never forgotten her explanation. It has stuck with me. It changed my perspective.

The three women in these situations are part of the Company of Women community. This is when we need to rally round and be supportive.  We need to show we care, because in that caring, the family feels less alone and there is a glimmer of light, in a world of darkness.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Flying under the radar

Sometimes we have to relearn lessons the hard way.

I have always known that “it’s not a deal until it’s deal.”  And armed with my paper documentation, I had no qualms about our upcoming family trip to the Isle of Man.

Until last night. 

I had wanted to make a last minute change and add another flight to our master trip, only to discover that the airline we’d booked with had gone into liquidation.

Not only that, they did so just three days after I booked our flights.  Wow.

With the way our travel works these days, a paper document is usually all you need, not even an e-booking ticket with some airlines.  Can you imagine our surprise if we’d gone to the airport to discover that not only was there not a plane, there wasn’t an airline?!

I can’t tell you how relieved I am that we discovered this in advance.  As it is, thanks to Sarah Boville, Barefoot Travel, we have managed to get ourselves on another flight, with another airline, but few fly to the Isle of Man.  So we were lucky.

All of this speaks to using a travel agent to book your travel arrangements. Sarah had booked the bulk of the trip, but I’d booked this part myself, which means it is not covered under our travel insurance. Our best hope at getting our money back is through our credit card company, but there are no guarantees and we are considerably out of pocket.

So what have I learnt:

  • Never take things for granted.  
  • Don’t make assumptions. 
  • Check and double check all is arranged.  
  • Have it in writing. 
  • It pays to use travel professionals when you want to travel. 

Let's hope this is the only glitch we experience on our trip.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Weather watch

For our mentoring program meeting this week, we held it outdoors.  Now I must confess that I was a little nervous, given how temperamental the weather has been of late.  Warm one minute, cold the next.  Sunny in the morning, wet all afternoon. 

So I came armed with a raincoat, a jacket, a shawl, an umbrella and even a towel!

At some point in the meeting, I had all three pieces of clothing on, and minutes later they were off as the sun broke through the dark clouds.  Laurie Hunt, who is leading the mentoring program,  kept us moving, we started in a circle with yoga stretches, broke into pairs and then walked around the property.  As soon as we moved, the sun would shine.

Apart from lunch under the tent, most of the meeting was spent outdoors. The ironic thing was no sooner had we packed up to go home, than the heavens opened. We all joked that perhaps because we were meeting on church property, the meeting was blessed.

However, Laurie said something that started me thinking.  She was comparing our challenges with the weather with the obstacles we can face in our businesses.

For example, I am sure most of us can admit to times when the business seemed to be under a cloud.  Nothing seemed to go well and it became quite stormy.  Now Laurie’s suggestion that day was that we were to keep moving, no matter what. 

And in a way, that’s true for our business too.  We have to walk through the storm to get to the rainbow, maybe not the pot of gold, but at least to the other side.  Because if we stay still, not only do we get very wet, but in our drenched state, it can be hard to find a solution, or to find shelter, and much easier to just give up.  We’re stuck.

By moving we are less likely to get pulled under and may on our travels, like we did, find moments of sun and we would change our direction to embrace it.  Staying with   this weather analogy, most of us came prepared for all eventualities.  When you are planning your business, you need to do the same. It’s important to have a plan B or C, for that matter, in your back pocket.  That way you bounce back quicker and  be nimble in navigating the inclement conditions.

So the moral of this story is come prepared, keep moving and be ready to take cover.