University, many people once told me, is the best time of your life. Yes, there is something to be said about being broke and stressed out with deadlines and exams. Of course there are the parties when you’re not affected by those two constants. So what makes it the best time of your life? In retrospect I think it is the enlightenment. Learning that the world is a complex place, greater than any single nation or people. That the study of social sciences the humanities and science really do help one understand, interpret and appreciate life and the great many things our world has to offer. I often think of a quote by Sir Isaac Newton when I think about my journey in life.
“I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”
- Isaac Newton
I believe Newton’s quote really reflects his observation on his achievements in science and what still remains to be discovered. For me, it makes me think of all of my experiences, adversities and successes in life and yet how there is so much more opportunity to experience and challenge oneself in life.
I have three awesome children and a beautiful wife. Did I ever think in university that I would have to settle down, raise children, and ensure I had a secure income for more than just myself? No I think I was a bit of a dreamer. I thought that with a degree I would be able to land a high paying exciting job in no time. I believed that with enough dedication and focus I could take on anything in the world. To a significant extent I think this positive although not necessarily realistic outlook was a beneficial way to approach my career and life prospects. I would encourage everyone to experience the power of positive thinking.
As it turned out in the first few years after university I worked for a management consulting firm out of the U.S., the Royal Bank of Canada as a commercial accounts manager and eventually landed with the Federal Government as a business analyst working in downtown Vancouver in the Scotia Tower. Interestingly, although some would envy these opportunities I can’t say I enjoyed working with the management consulting firm or the Royal Bank as much as others may have. They were not what I envisioned myself doing then or in the future. I am not sure I really knew what I wanted to do. My perception and I suspect your perception of what you think you may want to do may not be in fact what you end up doing. I once read somewhere that in fact it doesn't really matter what you do early in your career as long as you are doing something engaging and that contributes to the world; that the experience will be valuable in what ever you ended up doing. In looking back I can honestly say I subscribe to this tenant.
After a few years with the Federal Government, which provided me with some great experience, I was bored and needed a new challenge. With some real solid experience under my belt I now looked at the world more realistically and with more confidence. Not long after my search for new career opportunities I was offered two amazing jobs one to work for Foreign Affairs Canada as a foreign diplomat and the other to represent the Bank of Montreal as director of Aboriginal Banking for Western Canada. I turned both jobs down. To this day I wonder how my life would have turned out if I had taken up either of these opportunities. Why you ask, did I not take them? At the time I was convinced that private business was where I wanted to be. Either working in a private business for someone else or running my own. In fact I shortly after passing up the two aforementioned careers I landed a job working back in my carrier nation territory working with a band owned Forestry Company. This ended up being one of the most valuable and challenging experiences of my life. The company was near bankruptcy when I was asked to take it on. Over a 6- month period I staved off creditors and battled a lack of cash flow whilst working to generate revenues from a logging operation amidst a landmine of risk and liability. I think what made it so stressful was the fact that I really did not have sufficient experience in the forestry industry or ever been in a situation where I was responsible for the life or death of a commercial operation. Added to that, I think industry and government were looking to the First Nation’s owned company to see if they truly were capable of managing a commercial forest license, which also carried substantial environmental and reforestation obligations. To say the task was daunting may underestimate the challenge I was faced with. As it turned out I managed to make it through this enormous challenge early in my career and went on to run a successful company for the band for 4 years after its initial set back. Over this time I really had a chance to experience private business without my own money at risk albeit my reputation, which I am glad to say survived.
Following various projects for other First Nations in the Forestry Industry. I finally decided it was time to start my own business. Now in my mid 30’s with 3 young children and equipped with some solid experience in the forest industry I took whatever money I had and purchased an excavator, logging truck and a log delimber and went into major debt. I scrambled around for a few years to find work for my heavy equipment and worked part-time as a forestry consultant in order to maintain a steady income to support my family. Then one day one of my heavy equipment operators/employees approached me with a proposal to purchase some timber from the Government with the idea of reselling it to local Forest companies. The Provincial Government then and even to this day has a program called small business timber sales. With a security deposit and some verifiable experience in the Forest Industry one can competitively bid on very valuable timber well in excess of the value of the security deposit. It was year 2000 when I decided to bid on timber, at first in a very speculative way, that is to say I had no prearranged buyer for the timber and was only hoping to market and sell the wood on what was a limited open market. With out going through all the ups and downs of my business over a five-year period I can say that in the end it was a success. I employed six logging contractors representing over 70 employees and 60 pieces of heavy equipment, contracted over 200 logging trucks and owned two sort yards. In total my company delivered over 20,000 logging truckloads of timber to 6 sawmills located all over BC. IN 2006 just before the forest industry went into a downturn I dissolved my business. Although I probably could have carried on with the business in some form, the risk versus rewards pendulum was swinging heavily to the risk side and I was not willing to double down on 5 years of previous success. In the end I had one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
Since 2006 I have been involved in the energy industry to a large extent as well as a nonprofit society involved in employment and training. I have done some very exciting things in these endeavors and really enjoy the work. I am at a stage in my life and career where I am truly satisfied with my accomplishments and the opportunities that lay ahead. I am not certain I could have achieved all of the things I have done in my life without a university education. I am not sure it was the best time in my life but I can honestly say it was one of the most enjoyable and is the foundation for much of what I have enjoyed in my career and life. Today I like to travel the world and do it often these days. I also spend quite a bit of time on the North Coast of BC in the summers’ sports fishing on my boat. My wife and I also like to spend as much time as possible with my adult children who are all going through their university and early career building years. Of course I cannot miss mentioning how much my wife and children have meant to me in my life. I cannot imagine a life without them; not being able to share in all of the great things life has blessed us with and on that note I will leave you with three top themes that have brought happiness and success to my life.
Probably better explained than I can Karma as referenced in Wikipedia speaks “to the principle of causality where intent and actions of an individual influence the future of that individual. Good intent and good deed contribute to good karma and future happiness, while bad intent and bad deed contribute to bad karma and future suffering. Karma is closely associated with the idea of rebirth in some schools of Asian religions. In these schools, karma in the present affects one's future in the current life, as well as the nature and quality of future lives” (Wikipedia)
I have always tried to ensure my Karma is in check. I can’t say I have always been perfect in respect of Karma but I have always tried to ensure I never lose sight of my own Karma. If my happiness and well being are any indication of my Karma I would have to say that I have done ok. I am not sure that this quote makes sense coming from a man that committed suicide but I leave you with a enlightened view of Karma from Kurt Cobain lead singer of the 90’s rock group Nirvana.
“If you're really a mean person you're going to come back as a fly and eat poop.”
- Kurt Cobain
Although financial matters are often a difficult thing sometimes to talk about I will share my perspective. Money will not buy everyone happiness or fulfillment. At the same time I have to say that one cannot underestimate what money can do. I was recently reading a book that quoted studies that indicate that as many as 45% of the population worries about money. That's almost half. I have worked hard to get to a place that where I do not have to worry about money. I am not saying that I am financially rich. Just that I could survive a setback in life and still be financially secure. I view money as a necessary means allowing me to enjoy and do the things I like in life. I recently spent 3 weeks in Italy, which I could not have done without the financial means.
How one manages money and how it affects ones behavior are important things to think about. My wife and I have always tried to live within our means. We have never spent frivolously and have never tried to keep up with the jones. We are financially secure and appreciate the things it has allowed us to do. Alternatively we have seen many people over the years mismanage money, live beyond their means or take inordinate risk with their money. In many cases we have seen people experience drastic financial set backs in their lives due to poor money management. Without being to prescriptive I would suggest that one at the very least should get to understand money and finances and how to manage them. There are a great many good books out there that one can read to get a better understanding of how money affects us all. I leave you with a quote from a familiar pop star:
“Everyone wants to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.”
- Oprah Winfrey
Family and Balance in Life
Many reference the balance between mind, body and soul when they talk about balance in life. I am a true believer in balance in life and have always tried to strive for a healthy balance between mind, body and soul. In practical terms it has meant that I have strived to have an active life, set time aside for my family, build a successful career and not become overly consumed in any one thing in life. At times I have lost this balance for brief periods and realized that it cannot be sustained without sacrifice and often leading to unhappiness. Know one can tell you what your balance in life is. You alone must determine what that is. All I can suggest is be honest about yourself, your family, your ambitions and work and strive to achieve a balance that feels right. I leave you with one final quote:
‘Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air. You name them --work, family, health, friends and spirit and you're keeping all of these in the air. You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four balls -- family, health friends and spirit are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged or even shattered. They will never be the same. You must understand that and strive for balance in your life." Brian Dyson, former vice chairman and COO of Coca-Cola.”
- Brian Dyson