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LEARNING DIFFERENTLY – 6 MINUTES IS OKAY

Tracey approached me about doing a project for her daughter’s school. I met Tracey and her fellow chairperson, Eva, for coffee. I heard their personal stories and why they love this school and why they were running the annual Kenneth Gordon Maplewood School Gala.

As I walked away from my time with them, ideas began to brew.  With time and a some limitations, we had to shoot smart and creatively.

Good news, we got 80% of what I had envisioned with them. However 100% of it was the intention I had hoped for despite going over by 2 minutes (it is a 6 minute piece).

What is most moving was the surprisingly blunt and brutal honesty and generosity of the interviewees.

When we got a few emails back from Tracey and Eva saying they were moved to tears by the work we were able to do for them, it stopped me in my tracks.

Creative work comes in waves and sometimes you do not have the chance to step back and listen and be reminded of the big picture.  They did that. They helped me step back. I stopped and I saw.

This school is a powerful community of people committed to empowering young people. They are helping young people become successful and be prepared to press on in life and recognize their uniqueness of learning differently.

They are leading the way in teaching young people self advocacy.

I am privileged to see education done in a way that transforms young people, families and a person’s future.

Good people doing good work is so powerful.

Kenneth Gordon Maplewood School is for students who learn differently.

To support or donate to their school and bursary fund, go to http://kgms.kgms.ca/support-us/.

STORY BEARING

Story Bearing: The Pallbearers and Torchbearers that Champion Others

Recently on Facebook, I learned a couple friends whom I have not seen in many years had passed away. In remembrance of them, I posted my thoughts in closed group pages.   Martin Luther King, Jr. Day then approached and I posted these thoughts,

“He listened, he wept, he dreamed, he fought, he loved. Something bigger and deeper called him out to live and be this beautiful, piercing light that changed humankind forever. We need more lights to rise up   and shine again.”[1]

I realized my friends were lights as well.

In my grieving, I reached out to the close friends who journeyed and stood by the friends who had passed away. What I learned was more than just how they passed but about the beauty of their long standing friendships.

These living friends are story bearers who hold not only a memory but embody the shared life that is built upon deep friendship. I started seeing this connection to the work I do.

We are in the business of “championing” and “story bearing.”   The companies and leaders I connect with are doing that and we are helping them do that to inspire others to join in and follow.

I think of Steve Jobs for Apple and the leaders who served in the Civil Rights movement following Martin Luther King, Jr’s death.   They were both pallbearers and torchbearers.   They endured, fought, and built something beyond themselves in the midst of chaos and grief.   They championed and we followed.

Holding a person’s or company’s story is sacred work. It’s both mysterious and sacred because it all comes back to people and our own humanity.   The mantle a story bearer carries can be heavy but it’s important and constant work.

Story bearing is leadership.   It is leading people to remember.   It is reminding us of the “WHY.”[2] Why we do life together, why we work together, why we have that kick in our heels each day so we can plug away in the mundane things and also the things that make you want to go the extra mile.

Whether someone is writing an obituary, eulogy, or a mission statement people want to know “the why” or find the meaning for life.[3]   It’s the heart and drive that fuels the dream of many organizations to grow from.   It’s for those contexts where we long to go from “good” to becoming “great.” [4]

A year and a half ago, I had the gift of meeting up with cousins who I have not seen in a long time at my Aunt’s memorial. One of my cousins, Queenie, wrote and read one of the most beautiful eulogies I have ever heard. She honoured the good and the best in the person that was her mother.

What struck me the most, reflecting on my cousin today, is that she has always been a story bearer for her family.   In her hospitality and invitations to create connection for extended family and friends through the years, that is who she is.   Wow.

So if you know of someone who does that for friends or someone who does that in your workplace (that totally embodying ‘the story’), give them a high five, thank them, and cheer and champion them. Without them our world and work would be less fulfilling.   Without them, we may lose hope and purpose.   Without them, we will lose the very thing that makes us all good.

I stand up and applaud those who collect, rally, and remember for the sake of others.


[1]  Quote by Kenton MacDonald-Lin, Thanks C.O of Hawaii for inspiring me to share it.

[2] Start with the WHY Simon Sinek

[3] Was inspired to keep at my blog while reading ONE BIG THING by Phil Cooke, here’s a cool quote: “Ideas are the most fragile things in the world, and if you do not write them down, they will be lost forever.”

[4] Rethinking Good to Great (blog and comments) by Mike Myatt

Identity

Where May Day in Hawaii meets the Opening Olympic Ceremonies

Stories about who we are as people need to be told again and again and at all levels.

May Day in Hawaii – I grew up participating in an annual showcase event that every school would have.

Teachers would spend months with us preparing for this day. It is an annual event of pageantry and the telling of the Hawaii story. A story in which, King Kamehameha the arrival of missionaries and then immigrants to work the sugar cane fields were represented.

Hula, contemporary dance, and other stories are presented by each grade level. Parents flock to this outdoor gala to watch the story retold (and of course snap a picture of their child performing). The same story is told every year in the Aloha Week parade in Waikiki.

Thousand of miles away from the Hawaiian Islands and years later, I came to Vancouver. I fell in love with this city as well as meeting the love of my life here. We were married in 2003 and had our first little Canadian baby.

This brings me to 2010 when Vancouver hosted the Winter Olympics. Our family got to see the Olympic torch passed and carried through our little village in North Vancouver. We were so happy to be part of it and could not wait for games to begin.

Everything shifted for Canada then or that’s what it felt like for me on the night of the opening ceremonies and in the days to follow.

Having lived here for so many years, I did not know what the Canadian story really was.   Let me rephrase that, I was not raised Canadian, so I wanted to understand & hear what someone who was born & raised in Canada would say the Canadian story is.

When I asked my friends, they would answer, “it depends ” and went on to explain facts in history and what we are not.

For me, my Canadian identity finally made sense that winter.

David Atkins, the director of the opening ceremonies, helped us see our connection to the land, First Nation, French, and British heritage, and our creative artistic roots.

Canadians began to acknowledge our shared story.     The pageantry was just incredible. As the ceremony continued, we were in awe of the beauty, majesty, the colours, pieced words, dances, graphics, and songs.

The culmination of K.D. Lang singing “Hallelujah” resonated in our hearts deeply.  We finally experienced the “big picture” of what it means to be Canadian through the telling of our story.

During the broadcast breaks, we kept seeing the Molson Beer “I AM CANADIAN” commercial over and over again.   I believe everyone began to truly believe in those words and the singing of our national anthem felt just a bit richer.

For me, it felt like everyone who had lived here and those who have called Canada home actually all landed on the same shore together. We were one people.

In British Columbia Canada, in the days following the opening ceremonies, millions of people flooded the downtown core celebrating Canada and welcoming the visitors. Our friends down south were tweeting to the world, “how friendly and warm and kind are the Canadians.”

Today, I see the echoes of our story repeated as many groups and organizations continue to follow this unique Olympic tradition of acknowledging the people and the land we have been gifted to live and work in. Subtle and beautiful.

It sends me back to the “conch shell blowing” at May Days announcing the start of the event.

I have learned that identity requires us to hear our stories over and over again.   Family stories, Marriage stories, birthing stories, and community stories need to be told again and again.

Books, plays, songs, and movies need to be created and shared.

This week while watching the Rio Olympics, I am reminded of how all countries and places like Hawaii need to have their stories remembered and retold.

In Rio 2016, I could see the same elements and storytelling come together for Brazil just like in 2010 for Vancouver.   We all got to see how the blended beauty and diversity of a passionate people were formed.

What was unique this time was their story of the future.  

What I am learning is that identity requires HOPE and a FUTURE and stories to remind us of that.

The Rio 2016 Olympic committee sent a powerful message about global warming but turned it to hope with one seed at a time.

We were caught off guard with the interruption of a documentary like footage of time lapse ice melting and maps of waterfronts taken over by the rising water.

Then everything made sense as the story resumed back in the stadium with a young boy and a plant then after more time seeds germinating and growing into beautiful trees. It was a reminder of the future.

In my mind I was reminded of the Wendell Berry line in a poem, “Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.” Rio organizers wanted the world to know everyone has a part to play in our future.

The story of identity embodies the stories of our roots. We need to tell them over and over again because it reminds us of our shared identity as fellow human beings.   We need them to remind us that there is a future and hope.

As a young man, I arrived on these Canadian shores in order to continue my education in a field I thought would be my life’s work.   I didn’t know that everything would change.   I needed to rediscover my past, my gifts and explore what my story really was.

I was able to celebrate the good, mourn the bad, and embrace the ugly. I got to name things I never named.

But also I began to revel in and awaken hidden gifts and explore my passions again.   I learned to play again.

Knowing one’s story is a gift and I hope that your story will surprise you as mine did me.   I came here wanting to dream and hope again and be open to a brighter future.

As part of the journey, I had to hear other stories that are dear to me about truth, hope, and freedom. I had to hear stories about overcoming struggles and life come from death. This gift I hope to give to my children and watch as their stories unfold.

View Vancouver 2010 Opening Ceremony Highlights Video here.

Freeing Your Voice

Over the years, I have encouraged friends and clients to blog.

“Write and say something good,” I tell them.”   And I would say “the Google-bots on the internet will reward you.“

For biz sake, SEO and keywords tweaks are great. However, good content requires work, intentionality, thought, a personal voice, and many times a great editor.

Most of all, people want to connect with people not just a product.

Well, I have been preaching to myself all this time.

Then I stopped blogging in 2010.   A rant would show up on my personal Facebook page here and there but that was it.

I always felt that I did not have much to say or much to show. Which brings me to thanking a couple friends for reminding me of Austin Kleon’s books Steal Like an Artst and Show Your Work. Reading them a few times over has inspired me.

I must send out a loud “mahalo” to Austin for speaking “freedom” to my ears which allowed my heart and voice to sing again.

Austin’s books reminded me that my voice has been there all along. It was there in the midst life and work and I needed to keep at things and use my voice.

“But now I realize that the only way to find your voice is to use it. It’s hardwired, built into you. Talk about the things you love. Your voice will follow.” ― Show Your Work!

His thoughts were a kick in the pants and reminded me we are all learners and we learn better together. I was reminded my voice was still in our bread and butter projects and not just in things I hoped for or our personal creative projects no one sees.

I found freedom beyond what my perfectionism allowed. For the first time, instead needing to present a perfect completed project, it was okay to share and invite others into the creative process.

For example, my perspective on the limitations we had on a project. At the end of the day, I would ask “could we have done something different/better if we had a better timeline or budget?

Instead, I was reminded that with limitations, there is great power, creativity, and discovery.   Some of the greatest works come because of these “limitations.” Personally, I got to revisit and see our projects differently.

I got to see what we learned and celebrate the ingenuity that was birthed out of those “limitations.”

Going with the flow is a good thing and we are happy that we could adapt and honour our values for good work to help our clients.

They say that “with great power comes great responsibility,” well, I say “with limitations comes great power.”

Here is a glimpse into the life of a young man who is a genius with his “limitations” (a simple 4 string instrument).   You have to see his documentary as well.   Enjoy.

kenton4

  About Kenton:  I think my teachers, mentors, sisters, and my friends got me hooked and perhaps fan the flames for my passion that is summed up by these word… “The role of the storyteller is to awaken the storyteller in others.” – Jack Zipes  

 

Aloha! Shalom! Welcome!

Mahalo for stopping by and visiting our blog.

I write using “we” or “our” to include myself, the creative director, and my colleagues and friends that will contribute to the sharing here.

What you will find in our blog:

  • Stories about “story”
  • Inspirations
  • Write up and interviews
  • Cheesy and not so cheesy reflections
  • Passionate and compassionate rants
  • Reviews
  • Great ideas

I hope you laugh, cry, and forgive us for being long-winded or if we forget to make a mention here or there. Most of all, we hope you enjoy.

First, mahalo (thank you in Hawaiian) to my partners in crime, my sister for her editing help here and those I am enlisting to help tell stories.

Thank you to my wife who challenges me to be brief but thoughtful and inspires me with her love for books.

Kudos to my little girl who writes and creates little books of stories of her own.

She bugs me daily to make up a new fan fiction story (based off my love for the Harry Potter series).

Please write back on Facebook (we are getting better at this) or Twitter (still working on it) or drop us an email.  Love to hear what you are working on and your stories too.

Much Aloha (look it up, great word) and welcome to our site.