2013 brings two significant anniversaries and since they have both happened, I can talk about them. One of the biggies is July 2 and this year, that represented 20 years of marriage to Darlene. But I feel strongly that October 1st was a bigger anniversary that even allowed me to have a wedding anniversary with Darlene.
On October 1, 1988, I formally entered the world of self-employment. I had already created AJL Communications in 1985 when I needed to register some kind of company for tax purposes connected to my speaking. A couple of other fateful events happened in 1985 as well. I was invited to run for a seat in the Saskatchewan Legislature which I accepted. That meant quitting my job with the Saskatchewan Abilities Council as they had a rule being a non-profit that political life was a no-no. Ironically, I had been delivering a speech for four years that focused on my life without arms as a function of disability awareness. That all goes back to my quitting my job as a radio disc-jockey in 1981 to work as a quasi-ambassador of the International Year of Disabled Persons. However, that wasn’t my first speaking disability issues. To go back even further, I was the Easter Seals of Saskatchewan “Timmy”, a kind of poster-child for the handicapped in 1976 and was required to speak at fundraisers and high-profile events for Easter Seals, run by the Saskatchewan Council for Crippled Children & Adults which would later become the Abilities Council. Notice a pattern forming?
In 2013, I have come to believe many things I would have never imagined 25 years ago but one idea that has lived in my soul as long as I can remember is my purpose in life. Just so you know, motivational speaking wasn’t the plan or even a dream. But I had been “educating” people since the start. My parents had a significant role in that. Just taking me out in public in the 1960’s was an education for a society with almost zero knowledge of disabilities. Frankly, my parents were way ahead of their time. Ironically, so is my wife, Darlene. Not surprising to me, so am I! I say that with absolutely no ego. I mention it because I have a question for all of you; Are you living your purpose?
As I write this, I am angry with politicians. No news flash there. The closure of the American government prompted some of it. Oddly, its my own bad habit that is contributing. I don’t work that hard when I am home. Darlene runs our company and aside from the occasional conference call or work proposal, I just hang out in my own office far from the main floor one owned by “The Brains”. I am a news junkie so my television is usually turned to one of two Canadian News Channels. I know I shouldn’t but I can’t seem to help it. This time of year is the worst.
We are so blessed! We spend a significant amount of time at our cottage, mostly in the summer and although we have an office there, and a television, the lake is the focus. I know the obvious that it’s the lake that makes one feel good but I also think that not watching the news is the key. We’re not completely isolated but the news is “never” on and I think that has an impact. Now that I am back in the city, the news is on and so is my annoyance. I know…I should just “turn it off”! Here’s the problem; I can’t turn off who I am!
I didn’t win the election but I did get a government job and a well-paying one. I make no bones about the fact it was a “patronage” job but the position was meaningful. I was put in charge of a new department whose focus was disability issues and though they are common to governments now, this was pretty new. There was only one problem…it was essentially “window-dressing”. I would meet with interest groups, interview potential government employees with disabilities (even though there was a government-wide hiring freeze) and generally be the happy, smiling face of a new initiative with absolutely no real function. I know this disclosure sounds disrespectful but that is my point. I had a “position”. I had a nice office. I had staff. I had an impressive role in the civil service and I did “nothing”.
In Washington these days, we have the exact same scenario. A bunch of elected nobodies who find themselves with “a position”, an office or three, a staff and while claiming to be “acting”, they are doing pretty much “NOTHING”! Don’t get me wrong here. Not all people associated with government do nothing. I am pointing out a bigger issue here.
During the Labour Day weekend of 1988, I happened to be visiting the same lake that we go to and I referenced earlier. I was separated from my first wife, was the father of a three-year-old (1985 was a big one, remember) and was going through a major conflict. Ever since quitting my radio job, I had pretty much dedicated myself to making a difference, even taking a shot at public office. I was making significant money but I was unsettled. Again, a fateful exercise. One of my best friends in the world is Mel Haskewich and has been since the mid 1970’s. He was a Crystal Lake friend so we only hung out in the summer but he was an awesome influence for me. He was a typical Saskatchewan farm boy but in a small frame. He worked hard but had a rebellious streak in him so it was no surprise to any who knew him that he became a part-time explorer. He worked in the oil-patch in the late ’70’s but also worked the system so instead of overtime pay, he took time off and would travel to exotic places, mostly in Asia. It seemed to free his soul. Mel also “just happened” to be at Crystal Lake the same time I was.
Following the weekend and extensive chat time, I walked into my office at the government, went across the complex to my boss’s office and quit. I gave notice and on October 1st, I would be free. I would be free to finally fight my fight on my own terms. No boss, no employment insurance, no pension, no cushion. It was terrifying! It was also the best thing I ever did. Because I became a full-time speaker, I would meet Darlene while speaking at a convention 1n 1991. Because we met, she would transform my company to our business and it would thrive. Because of its success, our business would take us to five continents around the world and I can support the claim that I have spoken to over two million people. I have been given the most important gift that I believe human beings can be given…a purpose! Most important, I have acted on that purpose! I have not just sat in a “palace” and massaged my own ego. I have not hid behind a keyboard and used it to create divisions and discord in our world.
i have a challenge or two for you. If you are unhappy with your elected representative of any kind…TELL THEM! Don’t just wait for Election Day, act now. Better yet, take your own action but here is the entire crux of the issue. I have served myself in my speaking career and my desire to make a difference has always driven me BUT IT HAS NEVER BEEN ABOUT ME!!!! it is about the greater good. It is about Serving. It is about PURPOSE! Take some time to contemplate your life and if something is missing, consider what it will take to fill that void. I did and am thankful for that every single day.
I am being a bit of a hypocrite but since October 1st just passed, I am being very reflective so even though I am firm in my belief about “not about me” let me just take a step away from that and congratulate myself for having the strength to give up what was safe for what had purpose…and then act on it! Happy 25th Anniversary To Me!