Siobhan Kukolic

Words to inspire the belief that we have all we need to be the change we wish to see.

Month: January 2016 (page 1 of 2)

“It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.”

Thirty years ago this week, I sat in my Grade 8 classroom as a 13-year-old girl and stared at a television screen trying to comprehend what was happening.

The space shuttle Challenger, carrying six crew members and a teacher who had won a contest to be a passenger into space, had exploded on takeoff.  It was devastating.

Ronald Reagan, the President of the United States, had to comfort a nation, and all those around the globe watching. Especially the children.

“I want to say something to the schoolchildren who were watching the live coverage of the shuttle’s takeoff,” Reagan said.  “I know it is hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen.  It’s all part of the process of exploration and discovery.  It’s all part of taking a chance and expanding man’s horizons.  The future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave.  The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we’ll continue to follow them.”

Most of the challenges we face in life thankfully don’t end this tragically.  But many of us feel the fear that they might.  And will that fear hold us back or will we walk through it?

As Nelson Mandela once said, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.  The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

Every day we have chances to be brave or to stick with the tried and true.  It could be speaking up at work, taking on a project, meeting new people, travelling to different places or starting a business doing something we are passionate about.

As T.S. Eliot once said, “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”  If you can always see the shore line, how do you know if you can make it in the middle of the sea?  And how great would it feel to return home with the knowledge that not only can you make it, but you can thrive?  It’s a game-changer.

Anais Nin said, “People living deeply have no fear of death.”  They are doing what they love and have no regrets.

So don’t be afraid to take a leap of faith.  Don’t think of all the things that might go wrong.  Think of how you’ll feel about yourself if things go right.

As Shakespeare said, “It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.”

“There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”

One in five Canadians suffers from mental illness.  Although the topic is being discussed more and more, there is still a stigma attached to it whether it is at work, as a parent, or among friends.

I feel that we are all on a mental illness spectrum and on any given day things can change.  Not only is it brave to talk about it and to reach out for help, but so many amazingly successful people from all walks of life suffered from mental illness.

Oscar-winning actress Vivien Leigh who played the unforgettable Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With The Wind suffered from depression.

J.K. Rowling, the creator of Harry Potter, which has sold over 450 million copies and is one of the most popular book series in history, suffered from depression.

Billy Joel, a six-time Grammy-award winning musician, suffered from depression.

Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Ernest Hemingway suffered from depression.

Isaac Newton, arguably one of the most prolific scientists ever, who gave us the Three Laws of Motion, the Theory of Colour, and the telescope, to name a few things, suffered from depression.

Beethoven, the gifted music composer, Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister during World War II, and the artistic genius Vincent Van Gogh all suffered from bipolar disorder.

And one of my favourite leaders ever, Abraham Lincoln, who led the United States as President during the Civil War, and who helped end slavery, suffered from depression.

Aristotle once said, “No great mind has ever existed without a touch of madness.”

As we commemorate Bell Let’s Talk Day on January 27th, and keep the embers under the discussion of mental illness burning, I hope that people everywhere who might be suffering remember that they are not alone and that they have much to contribute.  They should tell someone about it and get help.

Leonard Cohen said, “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”

Embrace your perfect imperfections and shine your light on the world.

Drama is when the audience cries

I don’t get to the cinema that often.  Especially to see movies for grown-ups.  But there were a few I really wanted to watch before the Oscars and I made it happen this week.  I saw Joy, Brooklyn and Spotlight.

Three great stories.  About following through on the dreams you had as a child.  About taking a journey that scares you and finding wonderful treasures along the way.  And about speaking up for those without a voice and making a difference.

It really got me thinking about how those three themes relate to all of us.

Can we remember what we were like as a child?  What dreams we had?  What we wanted to be when we grew up?  Are we doing something similar now or something completely different?  Do we have passions from our childhood that we might be able to follow through on today?  Are we brave enough to try and to keep getting up when we fall like the main character in Joy?

What about life’s journeys?  Whether it’s about physically going somewhere on a trip or adventure, moving to a different city or starting a journey with a new job, career, sport or passion.  In Brooklyn, young Eilis travels across the ocean to a new country, a new life.  On her own.  Would we be able to take that kind of leap in our life?  Would we regret it if we didn’t?

And the classic David and Goliath story.  People in power taking advantage of those who are not.  In Spotlight it’s about child abuse but in life it could be about regular folks fighting the government for medical coverage, workers being paid unfairly, or innocent people being framed for crimes they didn’t commit.  Have there been times in our lives when we saw something wrong happening to someone who couldn’t speak up for themselves?  Did we do something about it?  Or did we look the other way?

Movies are a reflection of life.  Frank Capra once said, “I made mistakes in drama.  I thought drama was when actors cried.  But drama is when the audience cries.”  And we cry or laugh or smile or get nervous as movie-goers because we put ourselves in the character’s shoes.  We feel their pain and happiness.  Because it somehow reflects our own lives.

What movie will inspire us next?  To follow our heart, take a leap of faith, or stand up for the underdog?  Will we be a bystander or an actor in the story of our lives?

Famous failures

Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”

Sometimes we forget that all the famous success stories we hear started with failure.  All of them.

Oprah had a challenging beginning.  She was born to a young, single, low-income mom and was sexually abused as a child.  When she grew up and finally got hired by a local TV station, she was fired for being “unfit for television.”  Then came the day that she took a job on a Chicago morning show that was last place in the ratings.  Soon that show had risen to first place, beating out the popular Donahue, and the rest is history.

J.K. Rowling was a broke, jobless, single mom pushing her baby carriage into coffee shops where she would sit for a while and write the story in her head which was called Harry Potter.  Twelve publishers rejected it before Bloomsbury, a small shop, printed 1000 copies, 500 of which were for libraries.  Today, more than 450 million copies of her story have been sold.

Henry Ford’s first two businesses went bankrupt before he sold 17 million Model T Fords.

Thomas Edison failed 10,000 times when trying to create the light bulb.  Before figuring it out, a reporter asked if he felt like a failure and Edison said, “Why would I feel like a failure?  I now know 9,000 ways an electric light bulb will not work.  Success is almost in my grasp.”  We all know what happened next.

And the list goes on.  Michael Jordan was cut from his grade nine basketball team.  Disney was fired from a job for having no imagination.  Dr. Seuss got 43 rejections for his first story.  Barack Obama couldn’t get a ticket to the 2000 Democratic Convention, he was the keynote speaker at the 2004 Democratic Convention and he became president in 2008.

We know these stories.  And these people are no different from us.  The one thing they all have in common is perseverance through failure.  Learning from it and moving on.  Never giving up.

Winston Churchill said, “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”

Are we willing to fail and try again?  And again?  If so, success is almost in our grasp.

What dies inside us while we live

From a very young age, we are meant to “fit in.”  It might be into a certain grade or sport team level. Or it might mean saying the right thing so that “friends” don’t ostracize us. Then in the work force it could be not speaking up in front of a certain colleague or boss.  Because it’s best to “toe the line.”

Yet we tell our children to, “Be yourself!”  Which can be a hard thing to do.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”  Many people lose that battle.

They take courses in university to please their parents.  They are in a job they hate because it pays the bills or it would be too hard to change the journey now.

But change is always possible.  It just takes courage.  As Aristotle once said, “You will never do anything in this world without courage.  It is the greatest quality of the mind next to honour.”

But how do we know which path we should take?

There is an anonymous quote that says, “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?”  This is where you find the key to your heart.  The thing is, you need to take steps towards that dream.  Have the courage to take a chance.  Even though you will fail numerous times before you get there.  Because as scared as you might be of the unknown, regret is always scarier.

You see, as Norman Cousins once said, “Death is not the greatest loss in life.  The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.”

Children know what they like to do.  They are passionate and curious and excited.  But somewhere along the way the world gets in and tells them, “Who do you think you are?  You aren’t good enough. You can’t do that.”

But they can.  And you can.  An anonymous quote on Facebook recently said, “One life.  Just one. Why aren’t we running like we’re on fire towards our wildest dreams?”  Well… why aren’t we?

The Four Agreements

I read a book a while back called The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.  Making those agreements with yourself, and following them, can be life-changing.

“Be impeccable with your word.”  If you say you are going to do something, do it.  If you know you can’t take part, be upfront about it.  And use your words wisely.  To talk about ideas, not people.

“Don’t take anything personally.”  Because what other people think of you is none of your business. When people say something negative, it says everything about them and nothing about you. This is a hard one to remember no matter what age we are, but it is so important in setting us free.

“Don’t make assumptions.”  You don’t know why people make decisions, so don’t assume.  We presume they don’t like us, we aren’t qualified enough for the job, or they would rather spend time with someone else.  There are a million reasons why things happen the way they do and if we fill up our minds with assumptions, we have less room for ideas and joy and creativity.  If you really want to know why something happened, you can ask.  Communication is key.

“Always do your best.”  You won’t be at a place where you can perform at 100 per cent every moment of your life.  You might be sick, overwhelmed, moving or changing jobs.  But you can always try your best from where you are.  When your intentions are in the right place, others will see it and you will know it in your heart.  That is enough.  And you are enough.

Don Miguel Ruiz said, “Every human is an artist.  And this is the main art that we have:  the creation of our story.”

If you are impeccable with your word, don’t take anything personally, don’t make assumptions and always do your best, what story do you think you might be able to write?  And what would the ending be?  Write on.

David Bowie

I grew up listening to Let’s Dance, Modern Love and China Girl.  But David Bowie was much more than a musical artist.  He was an icon of reinvention and of saying what needs to be said.

In 1987, he did a concert right beside the Berlin Wall.  So that people on both sides could hear the music.  Protests erupted after the concert.  A week later Ronald Reagan told Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.”  And when Bowie died earlier this week, the German Foreign Office tweeted, “Good-bye, David Bowie. You are now among #Heroes. Thank you for helping to bring down the #wall.”  He wasn’t just a singer.  He was a game-changer.

In the year 2000, he was offered the knighthood by the British Monarchy.  Many would jump at the chance to receive it.  But not Bowie.  He turned it down and said, “It’s not what I spent my life working for.”  He wanted to stay true to himself.  To what he felt was important.  He didn’t judge success by what society said it was.  He defined his own success and stood his ground.

And he never stopped turning life into art.  He released his last album on his 69th birthday, just two days before he passed away.  Right until the end he was doing what he loved to do.

Can we say the same thing?  Are we doing what we love?  Take a leap of faith and follow your heart. It’s not about knowing what the destination will be.  It’s about starting the journey.  As David Bowie once said, “I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.”

Your one wild and precious life

Henry David Thoreau once said, “It is not enough to be busy; so are the ants.  The question is:  what are we busy about?”

We are all over-scheduled with our jobs, commitments, children, parents and friends. That seems to be a given in this day and age.

But are we busy making a difference?  Are we busy making a living or are we busy making a life?

As Khalil Gibran once said, “Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life; not so much by what happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens.”

So much of our happiness is tied to expectations.  What we think should be happening. And sometimes we’re our own worst enemy.  We want that promotion or that new house or that bonus or that degree. And we’re so busy trying to get it that we miss out on the things that matter.

Then if we don’t get what we want, we’re disappointed and it often takes years to understand that not getting it might have been the best thing that ever happened to us. Because it ensured we were on the journey we were meant to be on.

Although we will continue to be busy, we can be busy in the now doing what truly means something to us. Deepak Chopra said, “Life gives you plenty of time to do whatever you want to do if you stay in the present moment.”  Don’t worry about tomorrow or yesterday, just live for today.  And focus on things that inspire you.  Things that make you smile. Things that make you curious.

With that in mind, as Mary Oliver once said, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”  Let’s get busy making it happen.


Rocky Balboa

I was watching the Golden Globe Awards last night and I saw Sylvester Stallone win his first-ever Golden Globe for his role in Creed.  Forty years after his last nomination for the movie Rocky.

Forty years later.

It got me thinking about Rocky, a movie I grew up with.  And how Stallone wrote the script in a few days while living in New York trying to make it as an actor.

Stallone was rejected over and over again, and finally got a studio that was interested in buying the script for a huge amount of money at the time… $350,000. But Stallone wanted more.  He wanted to star in it.

He didn’t let up.  Even though he only had $106 in the bank and was earning $36 a week as an usher.

They finally agreed.  The movie budget was cut to $1 million by the studio and the two producers mortgaged their homes to cover any overages (which ended up being $100,000).

And the film was made.  It was the highest grossing film of 1976.  It was nominated for ten Academy Awards and won three.  It was the first sports film to win an Academy Award for Best Picture.

It was ranked fourth in the American Film Institute’s 100 Most Inspiring Movies of All Time in 2006.

A script that was written in a few days.  Starring a “no-name” actor who fought his way into the story in board rooms and in boxing rings.

As Rocky says in the movie, “It ain’t about how hard you hit.  It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.  That’s how winning is done.”

That is true inspiration to me.  Never giving up.  Believing in yourself.  When Stallone won the Golden Globe last night he said, “I am the sum total of everyone I’ve ever met, and I’m so lucky I’ve absorbed some of it.  Most of all I wanna thank my imaginary friend Rocky Balboa for being the best friend I ever had.”

Stallone and Rocky followed their hearts and made their dreams come true.  What dreams will we push to the limits today?

All the light we cannot see

I’m reading the book All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr and a character said, “What do we call visible light?  We call it colour.  But the electromagnetic spectrum runs to zero in one direction and infinity in the other, so really, children, mathematically, all of light is invisible.”

Invisible.

Yet we can see every hue from red to violet in all its glory.  That really symbolized for me that rules don’t always translate into the way things are meant to be.

When the world says you are supposed to do this much schooling or work this many hours.  Or you are told that in order to be successful you have to accomplish X, Y and Z.

There really isn’t one formula for how to live your life.  It has to be written by you in order to find true happiness.  You have a blank page and you are the storyteller.

And one person’s rainbow is never the same as someone else’s.  Their happiness is reflected in different colours.  One person might love to travel and live for the next adventure.  Another might be a homebody who can’t wait to curl up in their favourite chair with a new book.  Some like the red passions of the arts.  Others might enjoy the cool blues and greens of nature.

But in the end, the only rule is to follow your heart and not get caught up in what others say should be reality.  If we don’t live the colourful life meant for each of us, think of all the light we would not see.

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