With my compliments

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Have you complimented someone today? This week? This month?

It’s amazing what a few words of support and kindness can do for someone who feels like he or she is uncertain or struggling to accomplish specific goals or develop certain skills.

And those kind words are particularly important when they come from someone who is in a position of authority in that subject.

I am an amateur photographer; a good one, in my own opinion. And I am eternally grateful for and happy to hear friends and loved ones tell me when they like a particular photo or group of images.

But recently, I have received some very kind comments from other photographers, whose work impresses the hell out of me, and who, in a few cases, don’t know me beyond what they have seen of my work on Facebook or Instagram or Twitter.

Earlier today, someone I did not know stopped by my Instagram account to comment on an image I posted recently.

Simply wonderful! You got what it takes for a good photographer!

I immediately jumped over to his account and realized that I was being complimented by someone who I believe has amazing talent. This is someone making a career as a professional photographer.

I have likewise built a nice friendship with one of the official photographers for my beloved Toronto Marlies; a man who will periodically compliment me on a particularly good shot. I have told him as much, but I’m not sure he believes how much his kind words and encouragement mean to me.

When someone does well, I like to let them know I think so. I think my compliments are most powerful, however, when they related to writing; my particular strength.

What is your area of expertise or authority?

When was the last time you took a moment to tell someone further down the development chain that he or she had done a really good job on something or that you found his or her work impressive?

Trust me; it will make their day to hear that.

And if you are already spreading encouragement and passion, thank you for that. We need to make sure this spreads.

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You never know what people will like…so don’t try to anticipate; just create

My (other) family

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The rowdy rabble that are Duke’s Dog Pound

This is my family.

Not in the genetic sense, you understand, or even in the social sense. We did not grow up in the same house.

But a couple of times a week for the better part of eight months of the year, we gather at our local house of passion—the Ricoh Coliseum—and join in frenzied excitement over our beloved hockey club.

This is my Marlies family.

We are an odd collection of people of all ages, temperaments and backgrounds. We come from all regions around the city (and abroad) and have quite unique life experiences. And yet we are family.

And like all families, we can irritate the hell out of each other. Sometimes the passions can overwhelm those sitting in nearby seats. We do not deal equally well with challenging times, whether for our team or our family. And disagreement over the smallest thing can take fire, forming a wedge however temporary between family members and forcing others to take sides.

But the second there is a threat from outside the family, we quickly band together in support, in concern and in love. And ultimately, we are drawn yet again by our shared love of our boys in blue and white.

I would do almost anything for these people, help them in whatever way they might need. And I know both from my gut and from experience that they would help me if I needed it.

When viewed from outside, we are complete strangers to each other. Except for small pockets, we do not spend time together much beyond the arena. I don’t hear the minutiae of your life, nor you mine.

And yet, when the hockey season ends each Spring, I am saddened, not just because our boys didn’t advance further in the playoffs, but also because it will now be months before I once again see most of these people.

But when those gates open in October, and we wander down the familiar hallways to our familiar seats around the pristine sheet of ice, it is a moment of pure joy.

I am home with my family.

This is my family, and I adore them to pieces.

Lives of love and beauty – Melanie

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Melanie Layer: daughter, sister, coach, joie de vive incarnate

I think I have been in the same room with Melanie maybe twice in the few years that I have known her, and yet, despite knowing almost nothing about her (e.g., her history), I feel like I have known her my entire life. She is light, love, laughter, enthusiasm, passion, spirit, joy and every other positive experience rolled into an individual, and it seems like her greatest happiness in life comes from helping others find that in themselves.

Melanie has this knack for seeing the amazing in people she meets, whether she’s known them for years or mere seconds, and without ever coming across as intrusive, cuts past the bullshit in which we bury ourselves to praise and cultivate the beauty that lies within us all. No matter how you feel walking into an interaction with Melanie, even if a completely passive interaction, you walk out 12 feet taller and in the firm belief that you can accomplish anything.

Thanks, Melanie, for embracing my dreams and passions as your own, and for filling my life (and social media streams) with light and laughter.

 

See also: MLI Coaching

Dream snatcher

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The other day, I engaged in the following conversation on Twitter:

Him: There are a lot of tweets directed towards aspiring filmmakers telling you to “never quit” and “follow your dreams.” That’s terrible advice.

Him: If you met some guy and he said he wanted to be a professional NBA player would you immediately suggest he follow his dreams and never quit?

Me: If that’s where his happiness is, then yes, I would. Who am I to call down his dreams? Would in fact offer to help.

Him: Attention anyone in the world who is looking for someone to help them become a professional basketball player.

Me: If you never try, how will you ever know what you might accomplish? Why live by someone else’s thoughts on what is feasible?

I understand his point.

So often, people express a desire to become something or someone without a good understanding of what it takes to do that. And in a subset of these situations, the aspiring individual isn’t willing to put in the requisite work to overcome their ignorance or skill-set shortcomings.

I’ve known several people who upon seeing how much joy writing brings me express a desire to write. And then do nothing about it. And unlike the professional NBA player quest described above, writing simply requires a computer or pen & paper. And yet, many of these people refuse to write.

But even knowing this, even if I had complete clairvoyance to a future of procrastination or frustration and agony for them, does this give me the right to tell them they shouldn’t try? I don’t feel that it does.

Despite my conversational counterpart’s sarcastic response (I assume it was sarcasm), I am happy to help anyone become a professional basketball player, if that’s what they want. I have no idea what skills I could possibly bring to that quest, but hell, we all need support to follow our dreams.

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You don’t have to be an expert in a subject to help someone.

You can help them better understand what they’re attempting so they can make informed decisions. You can offer a couch or spare room if they need a safe haven. You can cook a meal or several for them when money is tight. You can cheer at their successes and offer a shoulder in times of frustration or disappointment.

And most importantly, you can let them know that success or failure—whether internal to them or measured by external yardsticks—has absolutely no impact on whether you will be there for them.

To all of my friends and to people I have yet to meet in life, pursue your dreams with everything you have, make your life choices knowing that I will be there to help you in any way I can.

And do your best to ignore the dream snatchers who think they are doing you a favour by talking you out of your dreams.

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And if you’re tired of watching me live my dreams, check out the blog of a friend of mine who has started living her dream life: Pipe’s Adventure.

No time to hate

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I’ve seen a lot of hate and anger in my social media feeds lately, directed at people of different religions, heritages, philosophies, and lifestyle choices, and it makes me sad.

I am sorry that the individuals who have posted this stuff feel this way and think these things. They are not bad people. They have their reasons of which I cannot possibly fathom. I can only offer them my love.

If I have contributed to these feelings in any way, through my humour, sarcasm or cynicism, I am sorry. That was not my intent. I meant only to induce people to smile and think.

The world can be an amazingly shitty place that naturally prompts fear, anger, hatred. The challenge is that these feelings only serve to make a shitty situation that much shittier.

The world can also be an amazingly beautiful place that hopefully prompts feelings of wonder, awe, unity and love. And just as in the previous situation, these feelings too serve to make a beautiful place that much more beautiful.

I cannot ask you to set aside your negative feelings. We all feel pain in our lives. To even suggest that you ignore these feelings is to invalidate them. That would be wrong of me.

I can only ask that you try love whenever you are able.

Not in the hope that it will cure your ills or diminish the slights you have suffered. Merely in the hope that a surfeit of love in the world will make those ills and slights easier to bear, if only because you will find you do not have to bear them alone.

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(Images are property of their owners and are used here without permission but in the hope that I have done them justice.)

His master’s voice

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You always see cartoons and sitcoms of men completely beaten down by their wives, crushed under the weight of constant haranguing and abusive disparaging language, and I have always thought how sad.

I was fortunate enough to marry a woman who was nothing like those wives and so I did not develop a marital slouch. This is not to say, however, that I couldn’t hear her voice from anywhere, the bat and dog having nothing on me.

Perhaps the best example occurred during a women’s hockey tournament in which my wife—I will call her Leela, because that is her name—was participating.

As a hockey lover and good husband, I attended almost every game Leela played and this tournament was no different. The tournament took place in a large rink complex (about 4 sheets of ice) and so the concession stand was well away from some of the rinks.

With Leela ensconced in the dressing room for her upcoming game, I took the opportunity to sneak off for a coffee and hot dog. While I awaited my food, one of the other husbands showed up and we started chatting. Time became immaterial.

Suddenly, I stopped talking and like an icy meerkat, rose up on my hind legs at a disturbance in the Force. I was being beckoned.

As I peer my failing eyesight through three sets of doors, the Plexiglas getting murkier with each layer, I espied a waving hockey glove.

“Gotta go!” I announced, as I bolted for the doors.

Indeed, it was Leela who, through a mouthguard, did her best to scream my name. She needed new skate laces.

If an audiologist had been in the rink, he would have detected no sound. Likewise, there was no visual clue that anything was wrong. And yet, I had been imprinted, so I knew that darkness had descended and my assistance was required.

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Now, make all the whipping noises you like, but we found out that the connection also works in the other direction.

At Leela’s regular hockey games, in a men’s league, I would sit in the bar above the ice sheet with all of the other wives, where I could watch the game in relative comfort. It also gave me an opportunity to make mental notes on Leela’s play so we could discuss it on the way home (something she wanted, so get off my back).

In one game in particular, however, there were no notes to make as Leela seemed to refuse to actually play, despite taking her regular shift. She would enter the appropriate zone of play and seem to just tripod with her hockey stick, dreaming in a universe of her own.

Annoyed by this, I finally mentally yelled out, “Leela! For god’s sake, do SOMETHING! Skate, check, fall down. Move!”

Miraculously, her body suddenly jolted, as though smacked in the back of the helmet, and she involved herself in the play. The rest of the game, she remained engaged.

On the ride home, afterward, we talked about it. She explained that she was standing there in the offensive zone, completely zoned out, when all of a sudden, she woke up as though shaken and realized that she had to do something.

It would seem, her master’s voice is just as loud as his.

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(Images are property of owners and are used here without permission, so stick it)