Poll: Does Facebook Still Matter To You?

Facebook questionI’ve been learning and exploring the opportunities behind various kinds of social media, particularly as it relates to businesses, artists and the like. The one I’m least sure of these days is … Facebook. So I’m curious about your thoughts on how, if at all, Facebook still fits into your life. Please vote and/or comment below, or on my Twitter or (ahem) Facebook page, and I’ll share the results soon.

 

Thanks for your feedback!

– KB

Friends & Mentors, Vol. 4: Kyla Woodcock of Forest City Sport & Social Club

I’ve been fortunate to get to know a great many interesting and inspiring people. I’m grateful to have learned a lot from each of them.

One of those people is Kyla Woodcock.

Kyla Woodcock, Founder of FCSSC

Kyla Woodcock, Founder of FCSSC

Kyla is the founder of the Forest City Sport & Social Club, a co-ed, recreational sports league designed to bring people together for fun, to meet new friends, and to stay fit while giving back to  the community. Built upon Kyla’s vision and values, the club has been an amazing hit, and has since expanded to Windsor (Rose City Sport & Social Club).

From the moment I met her, I’ve admired Kyla. When I talk with Kyla, I find myself both wanting to learn from her and to try and find a thought to challenge her. I am always interested in what she will say or do next. And I am never disappointed.

Kyla’s story fascinates me. In telling parts of it, she relates some powerful perspective that any entrepreneur should find valuable.  As I listened to her talk about her journey, I caught myself on numerous occasions thinking, “People need to hear/see this.” And now they can.

Here is my conversation with Kyla Woodcock:

KB: Where were you professionally before you even started to get the seeds of the idea for FCSSC?

Kyla: My background is in business and human resources. I worked for a large corporation in the technology industry until the bubble burst in the early 90’s.

It found it relatively easy to find a really great HR job really early in my career and I immediately started traveling with that company, and other companies within the industry, because everything was going so fast in tech at the time.

I moved all over the country with those tech companies doing HR stuff and then, the classic story, I became completely exhausted of that life after about 7 or 8 years, being early in my own professional story and moving around incessantly. I was never close to family and I missed every birthday party and I wasn’t married and I didn’t have any kids and I was pushing 30 years old and thinking, “I’m not doing this anymore. I’m tired.”

When the tech industry experienced a significant downturn I had to severance a whole bunch of people out of work. In HR, that was my job I wrote myself a package too. I just said, “I’ve had enough.”

KB: What was going through your mind and heart at that time?

Kyla: I was exhausted. I saw the opportunity. I knew the company had to decrease the payroll and I knew that we didn’t need another HR person to do the recruiting, performance manage and compensation strategy because we just lost the 500 people for whom that HR person was responsible.

The Forest City Sport & Social Club (FCSSC) exists to improve the quality of life for adults in London through fun, friends, fitness and connection to our community.

The Forest City Sport & Social Club (FCSSC) exists to improve the quality of life for adults in London through fun, friends, fitness and connection to our community.

KB: When, along that timeline, did what has turned into FCSSC start to germinate as an idea, let alone a business plan?

Kyla: There was a period in the early days of my career in HR that I actually got to settle at the head office of one of the companies I worked for and that was in Ottawa. And so I started to invest a bit into a local lifestyle.

It was just pure, off the clock play time. It was what I really needed and I found when I joined the sport and social club. And I became friends with Nicki, the woman who started the club in Ottawa. Her story was not dissimilar to mine. She started her cub having leaving the tech industry. She was a couple of years ahead of me. We’re still friends to this day.

KB: So was it that time that the thought came to you, “Maybe I can do something like this in another market?”

Kyla: It wasn’t until after I took time off. I left the corporate job that I was in, and then I traveled for over a year. I just didn’t work at all. I sold my house and everything in it. I literally put clothes in a backpack and started traveling. I traveled through the South Pacific mostly.

FCSSC donated over $7,000 and made countless equipment donations to various local charities in 2014 alone.

FCSSC donated over $7,000, along with countless equipment donations, to various local charities in 2014 alone.

KB: You did that by yourself?

Kyla: By myself. And I met fabulous people along the way. Totally fabulous people.

And then I came home because my grandfather passed away. I had intentions of going back overseas. I wasn’t sure I was done traveling; I still wanted to see more; I didn’t really want to get another job and I was fortunate because I still had a little bit left in the bank. The plan was always to spend it until it was gone and I still had countries on the list and so I was going to go back. But I didn’t.

I got home and I reconnected with my family during that stay at home and realized there was too much I was missing out on.

KB: What did you learn about yourself that that time?

Kyla: Oh. What didn’t I learn about myself? I took a lot of my identity from who I was in the corporate world and what people recognized me as being good at. I was chasing that next great big title and I was needing to be at the boardroom table and part of every corporate decision because that made me valuable and important. And then when I stepped away from all of that, I realized that’s not how I needed to be important.

Being important for me is being there for my husband and kids, parents and my siblings. That’s being important. Being there for my friends and being somebody that people can rely on. Being in the big chair at the boardroom table … I don’t care about that anymore.

KB: And at that time, at that point in your life, you’re doing what you just think that you’re supposed to be doing.

Kyla: Yeah! Everybody always said, get a great job and get out there and work and it’s all about realizing your earning power and putting your degree to work. You spent thousands of dollars at university: do something with that. You know?.

KB: So you end up doing everything that you’re “supposed” to do and you wind up exhausted and empty.

Kyla: Something like that.

With Kyla at a recent FCSSC event.

With Kyla at a recent FCSSC event.

KB: I’d like to talk a little bit about FCSSC.

Kyla: Sure!

KB: Fast forward then to how that came together and why?

I still had ambitions to finish schooling. I had an undergrad degree but I’d always wanted my Masters in business and I decided that I was going to make time for that. So I went to Ivey and did my MBA (Masters in Business Administration) there and when I graduated, I didn’t want to do what I’d always done. It didn’t make sense to me that that was a good use of the investment in my education. I wanted to do something else.

I come from a long line of entrepreneurs. My dad is an incredibly successful entrepreneur. So is my mom. My stepdad is a successful entrepreneur too. I wanted to try. And that’s where the club came from. The club was my entrepreneurial attempt that was perfectly fitted to the lifestyle that I wanted for myself.

I wanted connection to my community and I wanted more fun factor in my life. I wanted the chance to meet really great people every single day and I wanted to be in a business that naturally had the opportunity to do good. The club ticked all of those boxes, so it was an absolute no-brainer.

KB: You’ve just had your 5th anniversary, which is fantastic. Congratulations.

Kyla: Thank you.

KB: Where are you hoping to go from here?

Kyla: Wherever the membership of the club wants us to go. If they want a new sport, then we’re going to work on getting them a new sport. If they want a huge party or event once a year, then let’s get a huge party event once a year. If they want 50 partners in the network of the Forest City Sport & Social Club then we’ll work on 50 partners in the network. The club is a member-based organization and what we set our sights on as the organizers of the club is directly related to what the members are telling us they want the club to be and do. So I don’t dictate that. We plug in and respond.

20140512-fcssc0512

KB: And it sounds like you’re trying to manage that organically, as opposed to go back to what you experienced in the tech world, where it got too far out ahead of itself and fell in. So the growth, doing it at the right speed, is important.

Kyla: Yes. Absolutely true. We’ve had lots of ideas for different things that we haven’t actually done. And we don’t flip the switch on those ideas because it’s maybe not what the membership is looking for from us at that point in time.

KB: That’s a valuable lesson that I wish I could go back and teach my 20 and 30-something year-old self.

Kyla: Yeah.

KB: Just because you have a card in your hand doesn’t mean now’s the time to play it.

Kyla: That’s right. And for us, that’s absolutely true.

At the same time, we have the ability, for example, to expand the concept to other markets. There are lots of cities near and far from here that don’t have a sport & social club. And the joy of creating it for me, making those connections and bringing rays of sunshine to the people in those communities when they come and play with us once a week, when we take them off the clock and we give them that carefree play time, I take a lot of pride in that and I think it’s super cool that that’s my work.

No Schedule Man Store – Now Open!

The No Schedule Man Store is now open for business! You can get to it directly by clicking here, or by selecting the “Shop” page on this website’s main menu bar.

NSM STORE
Though each of Kevin’s CDs have been available for some time through online retailers around the world (e.g., iTunes, CD Baby, etc), it’s been years since the rest of Kevin’s “No Schedule Man” and “Hope Over Hurt” merchandise has been made available online.

IMG_7462
Among the merchandise now available for purchase are some “No Schedule Man – No Plan Is All Part of the Plan” and “Hope Over Hurt” lyric t-shirts. Only a handle of each shirt remain from the original “No Schedule Man” CD launch in 2010.

IMG_7460
Also now available in the store are “No Schedule Man” and “Hope Over Hurt” ball caps and “From the Desk of … No Schedule Man” notepads.

IMG_6950
Hard copies of all three of Kevin’s CDs (“Solo: the Return of No Schedule Man,” “No Schedule Man,” and “I Remember”) are in the store as well. Currently, this is the only place to get a hard copy of the “Solo” CD, other than at a concert or other performance by Kevin.

CD Cover JPG_High Res
As an added bonus, all orders will receive a FREE one-size black band bracelet inscribed with the words “Hope Over Hurt, Soul Over Skin” along with the Kevin Bulmer Enterprises footprint/music note logo.

IMG_6952
Shop quick before the t-shirts are all gone, and please share with your friends. Thanks!

 

Great Seasoning, These Sounds

It may well be that my favourite part of this time of the year is the music. Ever since I can remember, I have found the sound of many voices together to be incredibly moving. Christmas music notes

When concert-goers take over for the singer and deliver the vocals of a tune as one, my voice sometimes catches and I have trouble singing along. Even in the car, when the mood strikes, I will sing along with a song and, beginning to sing a harmony part, the vibrations will kick in, and my emotions will often swell up and bubble over.

Heck, I’ll even get choked up hearing thousands of people sing the national anthem en masse at a hockey game.

There’s just something about several voices blending together that makes me feel full of hope.

Choir group

One of the first recollections I have of this sensation came from a Christmas Eve church service. I was just a kid. I recall that my family and I were in the balcony, the perfect spot to absorb some beautiful sounds. I’m sure there were many songs sung that evening, yet the one I recall clearly was “Silent Night.” Hearing, and feeling, all those voices collectively offering such a gentle song into the atmosphere was a wonderful thing to behold. I will never forget the feeling that overtook me when my grandmother, who was standing and singing beside me, began to sing in harmony to the rest of the congregation, during the third verse of the song. I was young enough that I didn’t really know what “harmony” was, but I vividly remember how completely beautiful it sounded and how I immediately became emotional at the sound and didn’t quite know why. It was one of the sweetest things I could ever remember hearing, and I’ve been hooked on harmony and people singing as a group ever since.

I once wrote a song lyric that says, “One voice alone can be enough to lift an angel’s wings.” I love the line, and believe it to be true. But adding a second voice can give you the vibration of harmony. Add even more, and you begin to generate an energy that fuels a real spirit of hope and togetherness.

Christmas tree

Regardless of what you celebrate or recognize at year’s end, I bet that music is some kind of key part of it. Have you ever wondered why that is?

Music, to me, is the sound of creativity expressed and hope kept alive. If I’m right, the more voices, the better.

Too Many Cooks? Not in this Kitchen: Why Business Cares Food Drive Has It Right

You may have heard the line, “Too many cooks in the kitchen.” It’s a phrase not usually offered as a positive observation when trying to reach a goal.  I’m reminded of it now, in the throes of  an annual collaborative effort to gather as much food as possible for people in need in my community.

This particular “kitchen” is crowded with A-type cooks. And yet it works.

The Business Cares kick-off on November 28, 2014 at London Hall at the University of Western Ontario

A whole cast of characters came out to support the Business Cares kick-off on November 28, 2014 at London Hall at the University of Western Ontario

I’m in my third year as part of the organizing committee for the Business Cares Food Drive in London, Ontario. It’s taken me until now to fully accept and embrace that this committee runs counter to most others I’ve experienced. While this three-week-plus sprint to raise food and donations for our local food bank has many different activities and agendas as part of it, the whole thing seems to steer itself in a common direction, driven by good feelings and genuine positive efforts.

I believe there is a strong lesson in it.

With Wayne Dunn (at left) and Ed Holder (right)

With Wayne Dunn (at left) and Ed Holder (right)

The brainchild of Wayne Dunn (current committee Chair and owner of County Heritage Forest Products in London) and Ed Holder (Member of Parliament, London West), Business Cares was born 15 years ago and has since seen all kinds of companies from this area come together to reach a common goal: feeding people in need. Wayne leads by setting the example, creating the timeline and then empowering people to run with the ball. To his credit, Wayne runs harder and faster than anyone else. But when someone comes along with a new idea that could help bolster the overall effort, not only does Wayne not micromanage them to fit the brand or to mold their efforts into the way he might do things, but he is likely to have encouraged and empowered that person or group within moments instead. By doing so, he gives these people a sense of ownership and pride in their end of it. And so they go, and it all rushes forward in a gush of hopeful inertia that concludes by feeding a lot of hungry people.

As a person who works in marketing, I sometimes get antsy sitting at the committee table as we continue to splinter off the main “brand” (Business Cares) to create other off-shoots that are smaller (but very important) parts of the bigger goal. Usually, you want to keep to one defining brand name and stick to it, otherwise you risk confusing people. But the many cooks in the Business Cares kitchen have their own unique ways of contributing and a lot of terrific sub-brands have been the result. Some examples are “Be a Fan, Bring a Can” (where sports fans are encouraged to bring food donations to the Budweiser Gardens arena prior to select dates for the IBL’s London Lightning basketball team and the OHL’s London Knights hockey team), Golfer’s Care” (a one-night event that gathers local golf enthusiasts for an evening of fundraising and entertainment) and what has come to be known as “Metro Weekend”  (a two-day volunteer effort of canvassing in front of several local grocery stores). Each of these activities could be their own brands and/or stand-alone efforts in their own right. But they aren’t. It could all end up being confusing. But it isn’t. It’s all part of the machinery and magic that is the larger effort called Business Cares. And it works.

At this past weekend's Metro grocery store drive. Photo courtesy Business Cares website

At this past weekend’s Metro grocery store drive. Photo courtesy Business Cares website

You’ll sometimes hear negative things about big business. You may hear some not-so-nice things about small business, too. And yet I believe that the world of business remains similar to people in general: most of them are good and decent. A select few sometimes cloud it for the rest. But when something like this rolls around, I’m reminded of just how kind-hearted and hard-working most people can be.

Businesses of all kinds get involved. Over 400 companies find a way to contribute what they can to Business Cares. Some challenge other industry competitors to raise the most food. Some rally their staff and adopt the cause as their own. And some simply display a poster and drop box for food. All of it is valuable.

Business Cares committee Chairman, Wayne Dunn, interviewed by Brian Bicknell from CTV News.

Business Cares committee Chairman, Wayne Dunn, interviewed by Brian Bicknell from CTV News.

It will all wrap up at County Heritage Forest Products on Tuesday, December 23rd. There will be last-minute cheque presentations and other eleventh-hour surprises that morning. There always are. It is, for me, one of the best parts of Christmas and a reminder that the true spirit of the season does still exist. It is genuinely heartwarming.

Wayne says that “Taking care of business means taking care of people.” Ironically, it’s people that have to take care of any business. And in this case, the businesses come together to help more people. And when those people are empowered and truly believe in what they’re doing, they work, put their egos aside, and are well-equipped to successfully arrive at a mutual, positive goal. Business Cares is proof of this, and I give Wayne Dunn and everyone who participates loads of credit for it.

In my experience, it usually doesn’t work to have “too many cooks.” But this is a crowded, happy kitchen that thrives because it’s driven by genuine good feelings and honest efforts.

You’re welcome to join us.

Please bring more food.

Business CaresFor more information about Business Cares and to learn how to donate or participate, please visit www.businesscares.ca or connect on Facebook or Twitter.

“Tops For Bottoms,” and Why the Middle Matters Most

My late grandfather once owned a plumbing business. During that time, he had promotional plastic key chains made up that were molded to look like toilet seats. Along with his business name and contact information, each toilet seat proclaimed his business was “Tops for Bottoms.”

I still think that’s funny. And I got thinking of it again the other day, when I was listening to one of my favourite podcasts, where references to the “top” and the “bottom” both came up.

toilet-353956-m

During the program, the two hosts were discussing the potential merits, or drawbacks, of taking on a professional role of significant leadership and heavy responsibility, and why anyone would want such a job. Offered as a consideration against it, one of the hosts quipped, “It’s lonely at the top.”

Almost immediately, the other responded with, “Yeah, but it’s a long way up from the bottom.”

Tops and Bottoms.

My conclusion? Both are somewhat correct, but it’s the thought of an existence of a top and bottom at all that serves an example of how, in much of North American culture at least (and in my opinion), we’ve got it all wrong. We want to slap labels on everything, including ourselves, so as to define our lives as one thing or the other. We are constantly comparing ourselves to, and hinging our contentment on, how we stack up versus other people. We view these out-of-context comparisons as barometers of success or failure, allowing us to gauge how close we are to reaching the “top,” and how far we’d need to fall to hit “bottom.”

All too often, when we do finally hit the heights to which we’d originally aspired, be it a new job or a new car or a fancy house or even entering into a relationship, we end up disappointed and deflated after but a short while.

Lonely at the top.business-growth-1-1426746-m

I have been in leadership roles. And it can be lonely, if you allow it to be. But even when you’re at the “top” of your specific set of criteria, as an achievement-oriented person, you’re also keenly aware that there are many others well above you yet. And so, though you may indeed feel as if you’re at the top, you may feel lonely because of it and burdened from the emotional weight you bear. You may also be exhausted by the thought of how far you’ve yet to go to reach the heights – or acquire the things – achieved by so  many others.

I now realize that I’ve spent far too much of my life thinking, “If this, then that” will transpire and make everything better once it’s occurred (whatever “this” or “that” happen to be). After a few decades, I finally began to understand that, no matter where I was or what I’d achieved, I was always there, with all my evolving thoughts, feelings and emotions with me. There was no magic answer. There is no “there.”

I realized there was no such thing as “the top.” And yet, I still chase after it.

Conversely, I’ve been down, at home and at work, as just about anyone else has at one point or another. And when you feel you’ve hit “bottom,” it can feel overwhelming to work your way back up, so much so that you rarely stop to ask, “Back up to what?” And, “What for?” It could be, and likely is, that you’re just fine exactly as you are.

cellar-steps-201007-m

What really is the “bottom” anyway? It could be ten different things to ten different people. And even when I reached what I would consider the furthest depths of my own personal cellar, I still had a safe place to stay, family and friends who loved me, food to eat and time to reflect.

Not so bad. In fact, it was appealingly simple. And yet I’m scared to go back to it.

Ironically, I’ve always found what I consider to be “bottom” to be a catalyst for new beginnings and new learning. It’s ironic because I’ve often had the exact same – initially hollow and empty – feeling each time I’ve reached “the top” (i.e., fulfilled a goal or some kind of achievement).

Thinking back again on my grandpa, he worked hard, loved his family, and by just about anyone’s standards of measuring the “top” or “bottom, ” would likely have fallen somewhere in the middle. And yet, I don’t think he took any regrets with him when his time came. As evidenced by his clever key chains, he knew how to do his work and live his life and have fun at both. We should all do as well.

It may be lonely at the top.  It very well could be a long way up from the bottom. The truth is, you’re likely not contending with either. You are where you are. And that’s exactly where you’re supposed to be. May as well enjoy it.

After all, as grandpa’s old “Tops for Bottoms” toilet key chain reminds us, whether you think you’re at the top or on the bottom, or en route one way or the other, we’re all still going to end up getting flushed.

 

 

 

New Song, “Broken Breath,” To Help Southwestern Ontario Lung Association

One of the things I enjoy most about my work is that it puts me in the path of some wonderful organizations. I was thrilled when my journey took me back into the office of the Southwestern Ontario Lung Association about three years ago. I’ve been working with them ever since, in my capacity as a marketing consultant at Bell Media Radio in London. However this project transcends those day-to-day necessities.

First, a little background:

I’m a lifelong asthmatic, though you’d hardly know it to see me now. Treatment has come a long way in forty years, and I’ve also outgrown many of the daily symptoms (though allergies and other irritations still chase me at every turn, but that’s another story). When I was a child, I was very sick with asthma. I was in and out of the hospital and doctor’s office on what seemed like a regular basis. A big turning point in my life was when I was sent to a facility in Toronto that was better equipped to monitor and treat asthmatic children. I lived there, weekends excluded, for three months when I was seven years old.

Here I am at 7 years old, with my Dad. This is the only photo I still have that I know was taken at what we called "The Centre" - the hospital in Toronto.

Here I am at 7 years old, with my Dad. This is the only photo I still have that I know was taken at what we called “The Centre” – the hospital in Toronto.

At that time, my family was very involved with the Lung Association, as my parents and family doctor would do anything they could to gain access to any resources that might assist them in helping me. I’ve never forgotten that, and whenever I see the Lung Association’s red cross logo, I automatically think of others with asthma and other breathing problems.

Much later in life, after the worst of my asthmatic days seemed to be behind me, I wrote a song called “Broken Breath,” which is essentially sung from the perspective of a child with asthma who can’t breathe, doesn’t understand why, and wishes for something – anything – to help. The song also touches on the subject of my parents having no choice, for the sake of my own health, but to “send me away” (to that hospital in Toronto).

logo_trans

I remember when I wrote the song. It’s dated 1997. I was going through a phase of listening almost exclusively to artists like Bruce Springsteen and Steve Earle, and wanted to have a track of my own that fit the mold of many of their acoustic, introspective songs that tugged at the heart. To be more direct, I wanted to write a song somewhat like Springsteen’s “Shut Out the Light” (originally a B-Side from the “Born in the USA” era), which is the story of a Vietnam veteran who is haunted by his experiences well after returning home, just looking for comfort, calls for his mother to “Throw your arms around me in the cold, dark night. Hey now, Mama, don’t shut out the lights.”

“Broken Breath,” obviously, doesn’t sound much like Springsteen’s song. But from an emotional and narrative standpoint, I feel I succeeded in capturing something similar. I’ve always been proud of the song.

A couple of weeks ago, I played “Broken Breath” for my two curious sons, who also happen to be my biggest supporters. It left Eddie, my 11-year-old, in tears. His reaction was a compliment in a roundabout sort of way, although I was sorry to see him react that way. He said he was sorry he got upset, but that he thought the song was touching and that he didn’t know I’d been through any of the things I sang about. His reaction told me that the song may indeed be able to kick open some doors for some people to have a better understanding of the kind of work the Lung Association actually does.

IMG_9788

Eddie (at left) & Jaden: My “Road crew,” sounding boards, inspiration and joy.

So here’s the plan as it stands: my friends at the Southwestern Ontario Lung Association have asked me if I would perform / MC as part of their “First Noel Preview Night” for their annual “Festival of Trees” event, Tuesday, November 25th from 6pm to 9pm at the Covent Garden Market here in London, Ontario. They would like me to debut “Broken Breath” that night, so I’ll do that along with, perhaps, a couple of other songs. And I’ll happily MC and help out however else I can that night.

Festivaloftrees_final_outlines

Whether we record or videotape the song that evening is still unclear. And plans to make a studio-quality version of the song are also very much up in the air, depending on time and cost. Ultimately, it would be great for the Lung Association to be able to use the song however they like in an effort to create more understanding and support for all they do.

I’m also trying to recruit a friend or two to come along with me to make the night more special on November 25th and give the performance more impact, but if that doesn’t work out, I’m happy to do it on my own, as the song was written for just acoustic guitar and one voice. That said, I tweaked the lyrics and melody just a bit to create a bit of a sing-along element to it toward the end of the song, so it would be great to have company that night! We’ll see.

FOTCOLLAGE

For now, it would be wonderful for you to consider attending the “Festival of Trees” at some point this holiday season (it’s free, and it’s a great display that kids will love). And if you’re so inclined to assist the Lung Association, perhaps consider their Christmas Seals program or at least keep them in your thoughts or spread the word.

I well remember the Lung Association’s phrase, “When you can’t breathe, nothing else matters.”

It’s true. I know what it’s like.

Maybe I can help.

The Courage to Get Started, and How My Own Words Have Come Back to Inspire Me

I’ve often heard it said that the greatest thing you can do with any goal or quest in mind is simply to begin. Just having the courage to start is a grand achievement. A willingness to try means being open to the possibility of failure, and/or being available to the responsibility success may bring. Each is scary in its own right.

Once started, the next great challenge in moving forward can be managing the unique mix of knowing when to roll up your sleeves to do the work and when to take your hands off the wheel so that the energy created by your efforts can take you where you need to go (as opposed to where you initially think you need to go). Just as it takes a lot of courage to begin, it requires a lot of guts to be able to get out of your own way once you’re going. The good news is that, once you’ve done those two things, the journey can be very rewarding.

I guess I'd like to be a better man  I guess I'd like to feel less afraid  I guess I'll take a breath whenever I can  I'm often feeling just a little out-weighed (Song: “One More Run,” 2000)

I guess I’d like to be a better man
I guess I’d like to feel less afraid
I guess I’ll take a breath whenever I can
I’m often feeling just a little out-weighed
(Song: “One More Run,” 2000)

A few months ago, I wrote an article about my re-introduction to the world of social media, and Twitter in particular (you can read it, HERE). At that time, my intention was to start activating various online platforms (including this site, Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn), to represent the many facets of what I do for a living and for my own enjoyment. With Twitter, I began by trying to share a variety of content, representing my marketing and business interests, while also referencing material I’ve read that’s inspired me along the way. And from time to time, I would also share a lyric line or two from songs I’d written. I kept at that for several weeks and then just watched for responses.

Initially, the song lyrics I would share were only from tracks that have been recorded and are available online or on CD. But that’s a pretty limited representation of what I’ve written over the years. And so, when I started to run out of “new” material to post, I started combing through volumes of older lyrics that have never been recorded. When I did that, something interesting began to happen.

A good guess, or destiny?  The right place or ...  The wrong dream? (Song: “Right Place, Wrong Dream,” 2002)

A good guess, or destiny?
The right place or …
The wrong dream?
(Song: “Right Place, Wrong Dream,” 2002)

After I’d posted a few of my own unpublished lyrics, I began to receive responses from people online. It was somewhat strange at first to see people marking something I’d written – but never recorded – as “favourites” or “re-tweeting” them out to their followers. People began to send me messages asking if I had written the things I was sharing.

Never did I imagine I’d ever gain anything back from some of the songs in that way. I had always just assumed that a song had to be “finished” and recorded in order to be worthy of sharing. And these aren’t even really songs I’ve been posting. They’re just individual lines that, for one reason or another, have stood out to me as worth sharing. But, after having the initial courage to get started, and the wisdom to let the process become what it wanted to, I’ve found it incredibly rewarding.

Twitter Feed

Another thing that this process has given me is a growing catalogue and timeline of my own thoughts. After I’d posted lyrics for a few months, I began to scroll back through my own Twitter feed, feeling very much gratified at what I was seeing. Previously, all these thoughts and lyric lines have existed only either in my head or in binders squirreled away at home. Now, many of these observations are available to anyone who would like to see them, and it’s been rewarding to see some people respond in a positive fashion. It’s been equally (if not more so) gratifying to revisit my own words and reinterpret them with the perspective I’ve now attained.

Meantime, a similar approach has not yet gained any real traction on Facebook, and the full, recorded songs that are published on YouTube have not seen much traffic. Nor, however, have I given them much promotion, but I’m admittedly surprised to find Twitter the most rewarding of any of the other digital places where I’ve invested my time so far.

Let's sail up to Complacency and cannonball its port (Song: “A Pirate’s Life,” 2003)

Let’s sail up to Complacency and cannonball its port
(Song: “A Pirate’s Life,” 2003)

So where do we go from here? I’m not entirely sure.  But at least I got started, and am now enjoying the journey.

I also want to say thank you to all the very kind people I’ve heard from on Twitter. The feedback has been a lovely thing, and has stoked the fire for me to want to explore the possibilities of my own creativity even more.

Poll: Deja Vu or Bilge Rat Blues?

I’d love your feedback, please.

The new EP, released in February 2014

The new EP, released in February 2014

For months, I’ve been thinking of creating some sort of music video for the songs “Deja Vu” or “Bilge Rat Blues” from this year’s “Solo: The Return of No Schedule Man” EP. Though either one would be very much homemade,  I think it would be a lot of fun to work on, particularly if I could get my kids involved.

My question is, Which one to try first? (Note: you can listen to the tracks, below)

Thanks for voting!

Haven’t heard the tracks? Here they are.

Deja Vu:

Bilge Rat Blues:

Friends and Mentors, Vol. 3: Dan Balch (aka “Dan the Mortgage Man”)

I’ve been fortunate to get to know a great many interesting and inspiring people. I’m grateful to have learned a lot from each of them.

One of those people is Dan Balch.

DanTheMortgageManBalchA man of family and faith, Dan has been a mortgage broker for eighteen years. He cheerily refers to himself as “Dan the Mortgage Man.” One visit to his website (www.bankhostage.com) and you’ll see that Dan Balch is a person who both knows his stuff and has fun while helping people with one of the biggest decisions of their lives.

Though his expertise as a mortgage planner goes back almost two decades, Dan has enjoyed many unique experiences in both business and in life that have helped shape him into the very likable and interesting person he is today. From real estate to marine biology and reptile road shows to helping countless people have the home and lifestyle of their dreams, Dan has met each challenge with a quick smile and an open heart.

Family has always come first for Dan. He and his wife, Gail, have been happily married for over thirty years. In that time, they’ve touched the lives of many young people, taking in and caring for pregnant teens in support of the Crisis Pregnancy Center. They have also built a happy family that includes six children and six grand children.

When you meet with Dan, it becomes quickly apparent that he brings the same level of care and compassion to his clients that he has applied to every other area of his life.

Here is my conversation with Dan Balch:

Kevin: Listening to you talk about family makes me feel like asking you what it was like for you when you were a kid? Did you have siblings?

Dan: Oh, gee whiz. Well, I have an older brother and younger sister. Two parents. My father just passed away about two years ago, but up to that point, great family. It was great growing up. We didn’t have a lot of money, but we spent time together. I only have great memories of growing up. That’s probably why I am the way I am. I’m a pretty easy going guy. My father was a jokester. I got my sense of humour from him.

Dan_home1

Kevin: You mentioned not having a lot of money but still having a great time and great recollections of that time.

Dan: The problem is that we think that money solves our problems. We think that money gives us things that we need. And on a temporal basis, sure. It gives you food, it gives you other things. But it doesn’t give you the love. It doesn’t give you the satisfaction or the emotional things that a good family does. We get so caught up with trying to make money, which fuels our ego and a lot of other things, but really with the kids, instead of buying all these electronics and things, they really just want to spend time with you. They want to be able to ask you any question. They want you at home.

Kevin: You used the word ‘ego.’ Ego often is screaming at you, but that’s maybe not the voice you want to be listening to as much.

Dan: I think you’re more successful when you’re always looking outward, not inward. Meaning, you’re always trying to help other people, rather than help yourself. I think you get more out of helping people than with anything you can do for yourself, by buying stuff or doing stuff.

whole family

The Balch Family

Kevin: There is the word ‘help,’ and there is another word you’ve been very specific about: the word ‘care.’ Talk about your interpretation of what care means, as opposed to – or in addition to – ‘help.’

Dan: Some people I can’t help, but I can care for them. I can give them good sound advice. I can put them on the road to success. So, in our case, fixing their credit or something like that. Just looking after them and trying to put their best interests before my own. It’s the old saying of, people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

Care is really more than just helping. It’s looking after people. It’s wanting to see them successful and wanting to see them do well also and get good information so they can make their own decisions.

Kevin: You also talked about the kind of work that you and I do, where if you don’t get deals, you don’t get paid. I’ve long felt that everybody should have the opportunity to be an entrepreneur and that it would really change your perspective on a lot of things, but that’s another conversation entirely.

Dan: (laughs) Oh, yeah.

Kevin: By that thought, you almost feel like you should be beating the bushes even harder. But it goes back to caring about people and just trusting that the results will come.

Dan: Most salespeople are transactional. They’re thinking, “I need to do a transaction,” which is usually a sale. I think there’s more to it. We’re only on this earth one time around. So if you can help someone or care for someone or put them on a different path that’s better, I think you’re far better off and they’re far better off than worrying about that one sale that may or may not happen. It’s a better way to live.

I feel much better if I talk to someone and put them on a path to getting their credit fixed so that in six months instead of renting, they can own their own house. Now, do they come back to me? A lot of them do. Some don’t. But I know inside that I’ve helped these people. And that’s good. That’s what life’s about.

Kevin: I’m going to change topics on you. I didn’t know you’d gone to school for marine biology. What led you to that (marine biology) and then away from it?

Dan: To be honest with you, it was just kind of cool.

Kevin: You’re just like George Costanza (from the TV show “Seinfeld”): “You know I always wanted to be a Marine Biologist!”

Dan: (Laughing) Yeah. I always loved the water and it sounded like a fun thing to do. But when I graduated, there just weren’t very many jobs and because I’m a home guy and love being around my parents and my kids, I didn’t really want to move away from everybody.

The Balch Grandkids

The Balch Grandkids

Kevin: Then what happened?

Dan: I got married right out of university (U of Guelph) and needed a job. So I started actually selling real estate. I enjoyed it but I was so young. I think I was one of the youngest guys on the board at the time. I did it for about four years. I didn’t like being on call 24-7, especially with a young family. It just didn’t work.

Well, we had always had pet stores, so I started into pet stores for a number of years. I owned a traveling reptile show for about ten years and did shows all across Canada with that. We went on the road and I brought the kids along. We spent the summers together.

And then, actually a client of mine had a sick tortoise. He knew I was in the real estate business back in the day and said, “I’m looking for new mortgage brokers.” I told him I didn’t want to be a mortgage broker, and that I couldn’t charge fees to people for doing that. And he said, “It’s just changed. Now we get a finder’s fee from the mortgage company, so we work hard for the client and somebody else pays us.” And I thought, “That sounds good.” But again, I still liked what I was doing.

But then, we went away on holidays and we were down in Florida for about a month. When we came back, we’d had a break-in at our house. They stole everything, left my doors wide open and all my animals that I had from the reptile show froze. So there I was with no money. I used up all my credit on my holiday.

Well, my client happened to call me and said, “My tortoise is sick.” And I said, “Ask me to come work for you again,” and he said, “Well, come work for me!” And I said, “Okay. Sounds good.” And I started working for him, and that was about 18 years ago.

Dan_confused

Kevin: From what you’ve described, pretty much since university, it doesn’t sound as if you’ve ever had a straight-ahead, salaried 9-to-5 type gig?

Dan: Never. It’s not in my DNA to work for someone. I think I have to be my own boss.

Kevin: Not everybody’s wired to be able to deal with that, because they need that feeling of safety, which in itself I think is a little bit of a fallacy.

Dan: It is.

Kevin: I want to talk a little bit more specifically about what you’re doing, and that aspect of helping people and caring for people because, other than what they do with their family, you’re dealing with what I think is the most impactful thing in their lives. I’ve got to feel that there’s a very high level of trust, because it’s one of the most important decisions people are ever going to make.

Dan: I’ve had people where I’ve gone through everything with them, and I ask, “Do you have any questions?” They say, “Well, no.”

Well then, I’ve done my job. Or I’ve had someone say, “Isn’t there something else I’m supposed to do here?” And I’ll say, “Nope. I’ve taken care of everything.” That’s the way it should be. It should be, “I’ve taught you everything you need to know. You’ve made an informed decision and we’re going to go on from here.”

That’s going back to what we talked about earlier: being transactional. I think that’s where I differ, though I know a lot of other brokers are that way too. I can’t say that it’s just me. But I think that with the banks, they are very transactional and they don’t say, “We want to be your bank for your whole life” or “We want to look after you, we want to take care of you.” Well, no. They make billions of dollars in profit because they’re charging you all kinds of money.

I’ve got clients that I dealt with 18 years ago that I’m still dealing with. A lot of them now have paid off their mortgages and their kids are getting mortgages from me because they know and trust me. And that’s who you want to deal with. You want to deal with someone you know and trust and you have a connection with.

Dan_interestrate1

Kevin: I know that, for me as I get older and my kids get older, I look for those opportunities. I become more patient. There have been times in my life when I was younger when I almost wouldn’t want to engage in a high level conversation with an expert in their field like you, because I wouldn’t want to hear what I knew I needed to hear. I just wanted to get on with it and be able to check that thing off my list. But now, I want to be able to know. And if there’s an issue, I want to be able to call, say, Dan.

Dan: Well, look at Home Hardware. Why is Home Hardware still around? I mean, their prices aren’t cheaper than Home Depot or Rona or Lowe’s or whatever. They’re actually more money. But they have that service. They have that old time kind of, “Come in and we’ll look after you and we’ll figure that problem out together” type of thing.

Some of these other small shops that are still around … why are they still around? Well, they’re still around because they’ve gone back to, “Let’s have a relationship here, so you can call me up. I’ll give you some good information.” Now, what’s that worth? Well that’s the problem. Some people think it’s not worth anything and that’s why they’ll get a mortgage off the internet because it’s the lowest rate. The only quantitative thing they can look at is, “Who’s got the best rate?” Well, who has the best pre-payment privileges? Who has the best penalties to get out of this mortgage? Am I locked in? You’ve got to know.

You have to pick up that phone and you have to call a professional.

Kevin: And you’re going to be there. It’s a face. It’s a name. It’s a relationship. It’s not just a transaction and then, “See you later.”

Dan: That’s right

Kevin: There is real peace of mind with that.

Dan: You don’t have to know everything in life. You can’t possibly. But you have to have good people around you that do. So in this case we’ll put the client as the center of the spoke. I’m just one part. I’m their mortgage expert.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 30 other followers