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…looked back on goals we achieved in the first half of the year so far. Adam’s specifically.

July. Already half a year gone. Only January ago Adam and Jessica scribbled down lists of “Goals for 2015” on yellow notepad paper and stuck them on the fridge of their home – which they celebrated one year in during April. Six months later and a few things have been crossed off. Some were just a matter of penciling into the schedule; others took six months of sweat.

Dinner: Roasted salmon & root vegetables. Dairy Queen Dilly Bars for dessert.

Adam’s list as of July 5th:

· Better saving/allocating income from teaching music on the side

· Complete p90x exercise program

· Road trip to Boston, and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

· Lunch dates with Jess every 2 weeks

· Pay off remaining student loan

· Go skiing

· Run ½ marathon

· Run full marathon

· More tennis

· More golf

· Less work

· More yoga

· Repay ½ house down payment loan

· Reply to emails/texts faster

OK, so only a few things have been crossed off. But for most, the solid finish line won’t be reached until December, as planned (loan repayments, for example). Those that ARE crossed off, however, are pretty major achievements, including: 90 days of shape-whooping, followed by 3 months of run/cross training for a 21 km run. Six months of tired and sore. Worth every minute (finished a half marathon on June 27th in 2 hours and 11 minutes).

Paper out, we started reflecting on the key factors in achieving goals, like these:

· WRITE them down: place a list of goals where you’ll always glance at it. In this case, the fridge. For any involving dates, write them in your calendar right away: pick weekends for certain trips or events early in the year, before your time fills up. Auto-schedule payments

· Vary their TANGIBILITY: some goals won’t have an actual “finish line/date” (more tennis, less work), that’s cool. Just keep pushing the bar higher next year. Leave them on the list, and fill in the crossed-off spaces with new goals.

· Make them FEW and IMPORTANT: only aim for goals you want to shoot for in the timeframe, and only ones you’ll be willing to lean into. That African safari will happen one day, but don’t set yourself up for disappointment if it doesn’t fit into what’s already a jam-packed year of goal-reaching

· Start tackling the SIMPLE ones ASAP: the feeling of success will invigorate your “sense of winning” and perpetuate it. A few hours on a weeknight to head to a ski hill was a quick one to cross off early. Penciling in “May long weekend road trip to Boston” back in January (using money set aside from teaching music and keeping the trip modest and affordable)…another gimme. Goals are being met; list is getting shorter.

These principles – discovered by doing – have helped propel many successes in just the first half of the year. Still a number of items glaring at us every morning when we make lunch.

Turning to brother Ryan (still at home recovering from knee surgery), he’s applying these principles of goal achieving to a proposed new theatre business. Next week, he submits an application for small-business upstart funding.


…we brainstormed ideas for a summer project.

A special guest for dinner tonight! And as it turns out, the next few months: brother Ryan. Having grown up at this very table, he’s since flown the coop to study acting at the prestigious Stratford Festival Birmingham Conservatory. However, having just completed year one, he’s opted for surgery to repair a recurring knee injury which will keep him from what would have otherwise been a summer of performing in between years of school.

Recovery time. Back living at home. Now what?

Dinner: Meatloaf with root vegetables Bottle of red wine (x 2).

Ryan is now looking for ways to pass the summer and possibly make up for lost income and experience while living back home in the small town, unable to do much physical work. But he’s come to the table with a few ideas on how the town, rife with performing arts, but on a much smaller scale, could capitalize on his knowledge, experience and passion for theatre. Live theatre is a big part of our local tourism pallet, boasting five theatres and attracting tens of thousands of patrons year-round (which Mom, Adam and Jessica are all actively involved in: Jessica professionally as development officer for our local professional summer theatre; Adam and Dawn as board members of the local community theatre). But while the plethora of theatre is recognized in our municipality, its association isn’t formalized, such as say the South Coast Wineries Association, Ontario Summer Theatres etc.

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Idea #1: Ryan could spearhead the interconnection of the theatre/arts community in Norfolk County. Paper out, we began jotting down potential benefits: cross marketing, scheduling, sharing resources, playbill selection/co-ordination and membership incentives/discounts, partnering with local restaurants and establishments, and overall strengthening the clout of the local theatre community in holding its place within the local tourism/cultural/business community. Even potential for combined investments among individual theatres: a warehouse, rehearsal space, a workshop, tools, inventory system, online “store” etc.

Needs and benefits. Why things are created. Good start. Longer term? Maybe. What about the short term (relatively speaking – 4 to 6 weeks, avec crutches)?

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Idea #2: conducting a theatre workshop – sharing his attained knowledge, and maybe earning a bit of money. Or a seminar? Discuss writers, the language, the way dick jokes are threaded within the works of everyone from Norm Foster to Shakespeare. Ryan knows that stuff. And our theatre-loving community would love to learn it.
Certainly plenty to consider heading into the operating room. Under the knife this week, then a few weeks of un-woozing.

It’s almost spring, and the makings of a summer project are taking form. Wish Ryan the best!

…we planned out mom’s new workshop.

Mom has this geeky passion for self-start money management strategies for the everyday schmo. By day, she’s an admin assistant. By night, she’ll talk emphatically about investments and income tax. A hobby, like crocheting or sports betting. Last year, following a few TOD sessions, the four of us helped her put together a trial run of a 6-part seminar series using a few friends and colleagues as demo subjects, including Adam. Call it a success? Well, to this day, some in the group still occasionally meet with mom to pick her brain. It was only supposed to be a trial run. So, for argument’s sake, let’s say…yes. Since then, she’s toyed with the question: can her passion be upgraded to a profession?

Dinner: Beef tortellini and marinara sauce, mixed greens, baguette, red wine, espresso, red wine.

Mom’s enthusiasm for everyday money management just sort of happened along the way as a mother of 2, trying make a life in a small town, with all its small town opportunities, small town attitudes, and a small town, brown-bag economy that sometimes carries a future outlook of…”who knows”. Kids, house, car and university will be here tomorrow. Solid income? Who knows.

We love this community. The four of us (3 of 4 imported from the city) managed to settle, and want the same for others. It’s a lovely place to live if you learn to live with it – an approach which, through a previous marathon TOD session, even spawned the title of Mom’s trial series: “Money – learn to live with it”.

So tonight with paper out, we began spitting out new approaches for delivering her message again in the future: online video, webinars, lecture halls, board rooms, a blog, and one-to-one consultation. The trial run involved 6-weeks of 2-3 hour board room PowerPoint presentations. It worked well, but we were loaned a venue at no charge, and the audience was more-or-less hand-picked. We got lucky. A videographer friend has offered to help produce a series for video. But despite the low cost of producing and the Interweb`s infinite reach, is it the most effective way to connect with people? It’s at least a viable option for now.

Which brought up the next point: target audience. We jotted down everyone included in the trial run: middle-agers who’d admittedly fell behind their goal of financial comfort and are now scrambling to make ends meet, 20-somethings with little financial obligation, yet not a clue where to even begin mapping their financial future, and those who simply wanted to get the heck outta the rat race. Together, they make up a big chunk of the typical rural population.

So there’s a need. That’s good.

New page, we moved on to goals. An interesting one. Because the indirect goal is perhaps more important to mom than the direct one.Directly, she wants to make money-coaching more than a hobby, meaning she needs to find a way to sustain it. So we took down some potential backers: the local workforce planning board, the municipality, the local employment service, and the local community college. Importantly, each of which has, or at least has access to, a physical venue (and a client base).

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The end pitch, however, would need to come from mom`s indirect goal: community building. Finding a means for people in our small, bedroom community (and potentially others across Ontario) to live comfortably and have the resources to build their community’s future. Rural living differs from its urban counterpart, in that it’s built from the ground-up, rather than the top-down. A much tougher grind in this day and age than generations ago. Agriculture, retail, tourism etc., the “ma and pa” mantra has been battered. So learning to live with what you have is critical. Some do it well; others need a lifeline.

Mom may be holding the rope…

Two bottles of wine and two pages full of:

-target audience
-viable venues
-potential backers

…looks like the brightly coloured, Crayola-fied workings of a business plan.

…we thought of a name for our new blog.

We’ve launched this new blog thingy online; only natural we’d arrange a dinnertime brainstorm date to cover off one critical element: a title.

Dinner: Chili, toast, bottle of red wine (x2)

Going in, all 4 of us agreed on 2 key things which we wanted the title of this blog to embody: 1) the fact our passé methods of open dinner table conversation and scribbling with magic markers is a kick-butt way to problem solve, 2) a short, not-cheesy, yet somehow clever hook that directly represents what it’s about. Something unlike, for instance, “The Onion” – works for them, but we’d prefer less layers.

Paper out, our first blurt in the top left corner was “STOP Planning” in reference to our original handle for these thought-spilling sessions, “Sacred Table of Productivity.” A start. Planning, yes, but we aren’t stopping anything. Too many blogs on here for inconspicuous titles, according to us. Keep going.

Paper, markers, diary, lifestyle steps, idea sharing, table talks, table it, table sessions, paper sessions, ‘The Brown Paper Blog’, ‘Whiskey Journals’ (wild card in many dinner table successes, keep in mind for later)…words splattering all over our huge paper. Keep going. Foursight, Fourfolk (in reference to our Norfolk County, Ontario abode), Spilling Thoughts, Dinner Dialogue, Quill & Parchment, Penned Plans…

Two generally accepted guidelines about STOP: 1) Do not allow the kerfuffle of the Internet to impede creativity, except to cross-reference (in this case, make sure we’re not stealing anyone else’s ideas), 2) Sessions can be held over based on early bed times for the Morning Radio guy in the group. Great work thus far, but this one needed a second dinner.

Four clear heads, accompanied by a shot of White Owl whiskey for inspiration, our mission was actually accomplished fairly quickly during the second session. From the dozens of words and phrases already saturating our chart paper, we narrowed our sightlines enough to determine we simply needed a way of saying “The four of us brainstorm over dinner. We bring over our problems or scenarios, wine, a pad of paper and a pack of markers. It works, you should try it. This is what we talked about tonight…”

A bit of juggling: “Tonight, over dinner…”

…another table success.