couple walking

When Strangers Wish you Happy Holidays

Continuing on with my little rant video on Instagram about the lack of "morning hellos" returned my way, it is pretty special when a strangers wishes you "happy holidays" - isn't it !?

On a walk with neighbours, the other day, we were remarking about how fascinating it is to pass people on the street and see the percentage that returns "Hello" along the way. Our finding is (in Toronto) that it is less than 50% that respond back to hello, good morning, hello there, good afternoon, hi. Sad, isn't it !? The next time you are out for a walk, in the park, with the dog, in the neighbourhood - do your own little audit and let me know.

However, this post is to continue my string of posts related to "The Book of (Holiday) Awesome" by Neil Pasricha. Neil's "page 14" reference to awesome relates to "When Strangers wish you happy holidays".

So, picking up on my intro, how awesome is it when someone actually initiates the greeting. Given what I stated in the opening paragraph, I am delighted. It is so nice to have another person just make that eye to eye, voice to voice, and make a connection with me. OK, I'll give those that wish to put their head down and walk without interacting your time of day. I respect that but wouldn't meditation along be better than just ignoring all of humankind that you pass by?

Perhaps this little post might make each of us a little more aware of the opportunity to greet our fellow community members with a "Happy Holidays", or "Merry Christmas" or "Good Morning", just because there is nothing wrong with all of us spreading a little goodwill in our day.

Wishing all the strangers reading this post "happy holidays".

@fergdevins


snow shoveling

Snow Shoveling Etiquette this winter

That neighbourly moment truly appreciated when you go to shovel the front walk...and it is already done for you! There are lots of folks who struggle with winter, aging neighbours, sickly folks, bad backs and those who are just too busy getting their day started to worry about the snow that has fallen. A little wintry support can go a long way.

Greetings friends and family across this great nation. By the looks of the Global News weather reports, some of you are facing snow, others still waiting. I thought that in the context of my string of blog posts inspired by Neil Pasricha's "The Book of (Holiday) Awesome" that I would post about shoveling etiquette.

Neil Pasricha refers to the awesome moment being "When the neighbour shovels your little patch of the sidewalk".

It is that wonderful surprise when you turn the corner after shoveling the back driveway and realize that your neighbours have already completed your front walk! How about that neighbourly support. It is truly wonderful and only something experienced through the snow. It's not like they pop over to rake and bag leaves in the fall. Have you ever had a neighbour drop in when you have a branch down after a wind storm? But, that winter magic of a snowfall just brings out the goodwill in all of us.

My son and I actually look forward to "the big dump" when we can lend a hand and fire up our snow blower to help out folks along the street. Ok ok, so the boys get to play with their toy. It is gratifying to blow the snow, shovel the walk and see the smile on the faces of neighbours as they awake to find the snow shoveling "done".

Long range forecasts today are suggesting a much snowier winter in Canada this winter. Tune up those snow shovels and get out and surprise your neighbours.

@fergdevins


Santa

Santa Claus is Coming to Town

At the jolly big soul with the red suit, white beer and "ho ho ho" arrived in many communities this past weekend. Certainly Santa Claus brings joy, smiles and great memories of Christmas's past to family and friends. Safe travels Mr. Claus.

Continuing along my daily blog posts inspired by Neil Pasricha's "The Book of (Holiday) Awesome", I am actually going to post a personal memory today. It relates to Santa Claus Coming to Town.

 

I have heard of numerous Santa Claus parades and tree lightings taking place over this past weekend. I know that my hometown of Kenora had their annual tree lighting at Main and Second Street on Friday night. My parents advised that in their new community of Bowmanville, the Santa Claus Parade was scheduled for Saturday afternoon. Right here at home in Toronto, the "world famous" Santa Claus Parade meandered its way through downtown City streets to the delight of more than a half million people strung along the route.

 

The Santa Claus parade is a remarkable tradition. I'm not quite sure how the jolly old man in the red suit can make it back and forth to all of these communities, and keep an eye on his workshop at the North Pole. However, that is all part of the magic of the Christmas season.

 

I've met Santa in Toronto on several occasions. One of the most memorable was when Santa was attending a Variety Village event. He asked me if we would be attending the parade. I advised that we would be attending and that we would be above the old Shopsey's store at the turn from Yonge Street to Front Street. Santa asked me the names of my children. He advised that if Kathy and I and our children were at the end of the terrace closest to Yonge and Front that he would shout out a greeting to our family. Well...you can just imagine. As the parade was winding down, there was great anticipation for the arrival of the final float. Kath and I quickly gathered up Helena and Clark and took our position nearest Yonge and Front Street. As Santa's float made the turn he was greeting all the mom's and dad's and then said "and a big hello to Helena and Clark...Merry Christmas!". The look on the faces of Helena and Clark with just one of those truly magical moments of Christmas.  They were simply awestruck in the moment.

 

We have had many awesome moments through all those years of attending the Toronto Santa Claus parade. That year took the prize for all time great in the book of awesome. Thanks to the Toronto committee that has kept this fine tradition alive all these years.

 

Santa. Wherever you are this fine Sunday eve. Wishing you safe travels and well wishes for a great holiday season. Ho Ho Ho !

 

@fergdevins


Snowfall

The First Big Snowfall

Given the look of weather forecasts and winter storm conditions coast to coast to coast, this blog post seems so appropriate this morning. With a blanket of snow in several parts of the country, it is hard to believe that the official first day of winter is still weeks away. Cheers to the first snowfall.

No matter where you are in Canada you might be thinking of that first big snowfall. If you recieved this post as a tweet feed you might be thinking "Where are you Ferg?". The post is actually inspired by the work of Neil Pasricha and his 2011 copyrighted edition of "The Book Of (Holiday) Awesome".

Neil reveals a series of moments during the holiday season that is just simply awesome.

The moment of awesome that I refer to tonight is that first big snowfall of the season. Growing up in Kenora, Ontario on the northernmost shore of Lake of the Woods, that first big snowfall was often Halloween. We'd put on our snowsuits and our Halloween garb and head out to the streets for trick and treating.

Often times the first snowfall would catch everyone by surprise. In that regard, you might have had a 50/50 chance of a "snow day". In the north, we didn't see many "snow days". In fact, it was kind of a "buck it up buttercup" approach. We are in the north and it will snow. Southern Ontario, I found, was a little less capable of quickly adapting to the first dump of snow.

I remember when I was a young District Manager at Molson in the 90's. If I had my team meeting on Monday and a snowfall was forecasted, I would just plan to get there early. My team would arrive late and complain of the snowfall. I'd quickly ask them if they had heard the forecast for snow and question why they had not planned for the probability of slower traffic. I guess that was just the "northerner" in me...smiles.

When at College and University it was always a joyous time of year to have the first snow arrive. Sometimes it meant that expectations were lowered on arrival to class. On the way to class, there would be numerous snowball clashes. It was always a bit humorous to see who was prepared with boots or still wearing running shoes or less that appropriate footwear for the conditions.

As a parent with young children, the first snowfall was always magical. The joy of that first snowfall and just getting the chance to get out and romp around in the snow was such a heartwarming sight to see. Even our two Portuguese water dogs over the years loved to see that first snowfall and desired a walk in the white stuff.

In many parts of Canada, the first snowfall is the true mark of a change in season. In many areas that means that the winter has truly started and here to stay. In Toronto, it means that it will be a little inconvenient as the plows figure out what streets to plow (if they plow) and that is is going to be sloppy for a few days. However, in Toronto, it likely means that it is truly a passing fancy. Gone are the days where snow arrives and stays for months, let alone weeks.

So as Neil would suggest, that first snowfall puts us in a context for nostalgia and stories of years gone by.

Bring on the first snowfall. We're ready.

PHOTO credit Helena Devins - she is one of those stalwart fans of winter.

Enjoy.

@fergdevins

 

 


Cookies, Chocolates and Candies Everywhere

With mom and dad planning to head to Arizona soon with the "snowbirds", we are thankful for the special rationing of Christmas fruit cake and that special blend of nuts and bolts that is just simply incomparable. What's your favorite treat of the season?

Today's post through a thought generated by Neil Pasricha's "Book of (Holiday) Awesome" reminds us of the careful attention we need to pay to the next month and our diets.

The holiday season just seems to bring a lot of extra "eats" into play. Cookies, Chocolates, nuts and bolts (thanks mom), candy canes, Swiss Chalet Festive Special, short bread, rum balls, Christmas fruit cake, Christmas pudding all seem to make their way to our dining room or coffee tables.

We can resist, oh yes we can. We can also enjoy a small indulgence here or there (or not). Although it might seem somewhat artificial in sweetening up the season. It can be truly awesome.

Watch that sugar intake. Happy Holidays !

@fergdevins


Baby in the mall

Crying Kids in the Mall - Not Yours ! Amen...

Gotta feel for those "new parents" or the parents with "that kid" that starts to holler, whine, complain, moan, scream...just as they are headed towards Santa and Mrs. Claus at the local mall. Not to worry mom and dad, for those of us who have had kids...we've been there done that. Somehow Santa usually, most times, gets that child back under control once they approach the big lad in the red suit. Enjoy the mall and more importantly enjoy those kids - no matter what the mood beholds.

The next post of Holiday Awesome that I am drawing from Neil Pasricha's "Book of (Holiday) Awesome is all about the crying kids in the mall. Of course, the awesomeness that he points to is that the kid is not yours.

Calling on all parents. Don't feel bad about the child crying in the mall. Those of us that are parents can quickly tell you that we've been there and done that. Don't be embarrassed, don't rush off with the child, don't hide in the washroom until soothers are in place. Just let your child wail away until consoled and carry on with your Christmas or Holiday shopping.

The fact is you are probably bringing joy to many of us that have fond memories of our own children at that age. I do recall so many seniors that would have commented: "I remember those years of joy". I know, I know, that moment of wailing in the mall is not a current moment of joy for the current parent. However, the point I'm making is that those around you are likely not as fussed or embarrassed as you being the parent. We all sympathize and have a little smile inside to share with you.

And Santa's lap...always good for a loud wail now and again...smiles.

@FergDevins


Light Them Up

Hard to believe in Toronto of putting up the lights when we still have some many leaves on the trees. Gosh, "the old oak tree" in the neighbors' back yard will likely have it's leaves until the new year. With Santa's parade next weekend in Toronto, it reminds me that I usually have the lights up by now...but that weekend is usually last call for me. I'm ready. Now just need to get some boughs for the Christmas bells to be hung at the front door. Ho Ho Ho.

One of my most favourite tasks of the holiday season is to put the lights up on the trees outside. In recent years the task has become quite enjoyable, as our global warming seems to have extended autumn and allowed for fairly mild weather for stringing the lights. One custom that I have adopted is to place the lights on the outdoor trees the weekend of the Toronto Santa Claus Parade. As I reviewed the situation today, I think that my lilac bushes may finally have shed their leaves for Sunday's placement.

Neil Pasricha's reference to this task is on page 7 of his "Book of (Holiday) Awesome" . He refers to the awesomeness being the fact that you are "plugging in your Christmas lights from last year and having them all work". I must admit that up until last year, this was always an issue for me. I was a late convert to the new LED light systems. The original old style lights were far more fragile and breakable than the new LED versions. The LED versions are also much easier to string and remove for storage as well.

I am sure that I will still be faced with the surprise of half strings undone when I go to light up the indoor lights. I still have lights from many years of adding strings to the indoor tree. Hey!  Maybe this year is the year that we should finally make the transition to LED lights for the indoor tree as well. Has anyone made this transition and have feedback on that front? Does the tree glisten with the new as well as the old light systems?

While the weather is still fairly warm, my suggestion is that you consider installing your outdoor lights this weekend. The rule in our household, as dictated by my dearly beloved better half, is that the lights are allowed to be turned on the day that our neighbours to the south celebrate American Thanksgiving. Thus, Thursday, November 23rd will be the tree lighting at the Devins.

Wishing you all well in your plans for tree lighting this Christmas season. Ho Ho Ho.

Instagram @fergdevins

Twitter @fergdevins

 


From the Book of (Holiday) Awesome

After responses from readers, family and friends last year, I am going to "re-blog" this series that ties to the work of Neil Pasricha and the Book of Holiday Awesome. Thanks for the inspiration Neil, and for those who enjoyed these posts through 2017. Back due to demand...happy holiday season planning everyone. @fergdevins

The Holiday season

Firstly, for me as a Christian, it is truly the Christmas season. I have also had many Muslim, Jewish and Hindu friends suggest to me that they also look at this coming time of year as the "Christmas Season", with other celebrations of faith and community included. I sometimes find it humorous when companies or individuals try to neutralize the season to be non-faith based. "Holiday Greetings", "Season's Greetings", are often phrases we might here. As a close Muslim friend of mine stated,  "get over it, it is Christmas!". Whatever your faith, it is a time of year to be grateful for all that we have and to work towards greater peace, harmony, and joy amongst all human beings.

 

A Time With Family and Friends

However, regardless of faith, it is a wonderful time of year where family and friends rejoice. I was truly taken by the work of Neil Pasricha and his "Book of (Holiday) Awesome".  As Neil works on his mission to help people live happy lives, his work in this book is certainly a written legacy of happiness.

 

Neil Pasricha's Work

I reached out to Neil last November and asked for his permission to post and share some of the content from his wonderful work throughout the holiday season. He graciously accepted my request. Thanks, Neil! For true joy and guaranteed smiles, check out Neil's works at Amazon.ca.

 

Time for Awesomeness

So, over the next 47 days (commencing November 14th and ending December 31st) I am going to share excerpts from Neil Pasricha's work "The Book of (Holiday) Awesome".

 

I hope that it may warm your hearts and make you think a bit of how you might spread a little Holiday Awesomeness as we wrap up 2017.

 

Here we Go

The first thought of awesomeness from page three of Neil's book is related to "Getting a Christmas card from someone you thought you lost touch with". Realistically, we are all probably a little less involved with the physical handwritten Christmas cards as the years progress. There are so many "online" options to choose from. Many just simply post an electronic message to their "contact list" and email blast away. I'm still a big fan of personalized outreach on special occasions. It is wonderful to share a Christmas message that is personalized so that your networks can relate to you and your family and loved ones at Christmas. However, there truly is nothing like receiving that direct connection from someone you have not heard from in a long time - whether that is a physical greeting card or email.

 

As Neil points out, "life is short and always wavering", thus friendships are worth sustaining, worth investing in, "worth enjoying and worth savoring".

 

So here we go - post one of the season is up and running. Follow more posts via @FergDevins, via The Devins Network on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.

 

Through my networks, I hope to add a little spice of happiness, from the inspiration that Neil Pasricha has provided through his work.

 

Have an Awesome Holiday Season everyone !

 

@fergdevins


I Survived and now Walking To Fight #BladderCancer

Walk to fight Bladder Cancer

September 23rd I will be walking to fight #bladdercancer in the annual Bladder Cancer Canada Awareness Walk.

I have walked in Kenora for the past three years, my summer residence community and "hometown". As Chair of Bladder Cancer Canada, I thought it was important for me to walk in the largest event in the country and return home to Toronto for the September event.

Toronto Walk

Deanne Puder is doing a masterful job of organizing the Toronto event, along with former supporters of the walk and our Bladder Cancer Canada Co-Founder David Guttman keeping her informed on best practices to date.

Corus Global

I am also delighted that Corus/Global is continuing as our national media partner. Troy Reeb has been our master of ceremonies in Toronto the past few years. Alan Carter of Global News will be taking on emcee responsibilities this year. It is great to have Alan on board and we extend thanks to Corus/Global for their much-valued continued support.

Why Walk?

Why Walk?  As a survivor of #bladdercancer, I was fortunate enough to have found out about Bladder Cancer Canada, very early after my diagnosis. The website offered some great resources, and Tammy Northam, the executive director, was very helpful in getting me started on setting up a fundraising walk in my summer residence of Kenora Ontario.

More than that - Bladder Cancer Canada truly makes a difference in the fight against #bladdercancer. They remain focused on patient support, raising awareness about the disease and funding research.

Earlier this year I became Chair of Bladder Cancer Canada's board of directors. I humbly take on this responsibility after the leadership of Ken Bagshaw and his predecessor Co-Founder of the organization - David Guttman.

I also remain inspired by Jack Moon, David's fellow co-founder, to whom I was referred to when I was "googling" and stumbled across the organization after reaching out to the American organization BCAN and the Inspire network.

By walking, and gaining the support of donors, I know that we will continue to build the impact that we have to provide for patients in the fight against bladder cancer in Canada. We will have more resources to raise awareness. We will have more resources to support our medical advisory and research boards and our Canadian researchers in the pursuit of finding a cure for bladder cancer.

I hope that YOU might consider SUPPORTING ME by joining me to walk in Toronto and/or supporting me by making a donation to my walk effort on my personal page at bccwalk.ca.

Thanks

Thank you for helping me and our volunteer board and patient support team make a real difference in the fight against bladder cancer.


Your Remote Office At the Lake

Hello out there Canada !

I'm re-issuing my "virtual office" blog post on working remotely at the lake - the remote office. I am also including a "video" produced last summer to help you think about how you might plan on working remotely this summer. Cheers to a great start to the month of July. Happy Canada Day long weekend.

VIDEO LINK HERE  

Ah summer...time to set up the virtual office.

A time when families plan to spend more time together with each other, extended families and friends. For many Canadians, it is a time to enjoy that special place known as the "cottage", "camp" or "cabin", depending on of course which part of this vast and magnificent land you might be headed to...the coast - lake - river - countryside - hills or mountains.

For me, that "camp" becomes my summer location and headquarters in Central Canada for the Devins Network. I get a smile on my face just writing that! It's the virtual office.

Even when I was still working full time at Molson Coors, I would make the weekly treck northwards to Kenora from Toronto late on a Thursday night and return on Monday.

Thankfully, I had the benefit of understanding and supportive colleagues and a CEO who knew that I was plugged in and accessible at all times, regardless of my physical location. Ground rules in that regard are critically important to make the model work. Establish that agreement early on so that the context is understood by your team and clients.

The remote or virtual office concept is being adapted and embraced by more and more individuals and businesses. I truly believe in this web-connected network society in which we live, if you've got access to the web, you are on the job; available and in touch.

Obviously, the truth is that virtual office or job locations are not for everyone. If you are an administration type, that requires physical files at your disposal, it's likely the case that you need to be next to those physical files. 

If you are on a production line or supervising production lines or operations, it is likely important that you are physically on the site in case troubleshooting is required.

However, if you can execute your responsibilities and fulfil on your accountabilities online, without requiring a physical presence - you can likely make the virtual office thing happen.

So what does a virtual office look like, feel like ?

DETERMINE THE WORKSPACE

Establishing your physical "workspace" is a critical consideration, in setting up your virtual office. A desk, chair, printer, filing space, office items, mouse, keyboard, clock are all important for your physical set up. Most important is an agreement with your family members of where you locate in their environment. You may have to take a call or examine something online at any point in the day. Having space that will allow for this and not cause friction with the rest of the family is key to happiness for those sharing your newly created office space.

A PHONE

Cell phones allow you to be in touch anywhere anytime as long as you have cell service. I find that more and more folks are leaving the landline behind and moving to cell phone only. Given that most families have plans for each member of the family - it has become the predominant device for contact...voice or text. As a solopreneur my cell phone is my phone for business and travels with me everywhere. Depending on how "remote" you are, you might need to do some research on network availability and service in your area. Most communities and service providers have figured out how to keep their permanent and summer residents connected.

COMPUTER

Hardwired to the net or Wifi will provide you with the connectedness you need to access your work team, clients, suppliers, colleagues, and prospects. If you don't have wifi you may actually have the benefit of a data plan and you can "hotspot" from your phone. Research most accessible and affordable options. Another critical consideration is your "back up". By this, I am referring to a  backup device. I stumbled upon a situation where my computer needed servicing. Having an Apple Mac Book it required being shipped away for several days. Thus, I needed to have a backup laptop, tablet or device.

WIFI

I have struggled year after year with just simply unacceptable wifi service from the local provider. I am now into my second summer with xplornet.com and find them to be outstanding. Currently, I have 20.7 MBPS down and  1.6 MBPS up. I have had better than than through the week.

DOCUMENTS 

Platforms such as dropbox, google drive, box, icloud and or various other clouds allow you to arrange your critical documents for access. You can also share and edit with teams via these platforms. It might take some getting used to but is really slick once you are operating in this space. This will also provide a safe back-up for you with access on any device if your primary computer or lap to go on the fritz.

FACE TO FACE

Facetime for Apple folks, SKYPE for just about anyone and many other video conference platforms like "Go To Meeting" allow you to conduct virtual meetings where you actually do have face to face ability through your computer, tablet or phone device. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and snap chat all have face to face capability as well.

VOICE TO VOICE OR SCREEN SHARING

Plenty of conference call platforms on phones and available today to ensure that you can remain connected and be engaged in meetings whenever that call might be on your calendar. I recommend securing a conference line so that you have it on the ready, rather than having to scramble if in need of convening a call with your team or clients. Join Me is a terrific service to share your screen with others via conference call. Webex or Zoom are also great services.

CONFERENCE ROOMS

Most hotels, and many local businesses offer up their conference space for use by individuals or small businesses. You don't have to look too far before finding something that will suit your needs. This is particularly important if you are need in several hours on a "call". It could be a major inconvenience to your family if you are set up in common space in your abode. Often times there is idle space in summer months in cottage country, the establishment might appreciate a few tweets, Trip Advisor referral or Facebook like or recommendation from you in return.

CALENDAR AND ALARM

Don't fall into a trap of getting distracted with what is going on at your virtual location environment. Have a calendar plan with "notifications" when meetings, calls or assignments are due. Since you are remote, you might sometimes be slightly adrift. Make sure you have a good system in place to stick with your business schedule, when required.

PLAN YOUR WORK WINDOWS

Put a plan in place to lay out your work each day. Rob Hatch at Owner Media has a good process that he talks about in his "work like you're on vacation" course. His suggestion is to lay out your work the night before, plan it, plan the outcomes and schedule that time free of distractions.

MAIL

Canada Post will allow for personal mail being forwarded, or how about having home office send you your mail weekly in a ground courier envelope. Many cottage communities also have local post office box availability. Depending on whether you know your community, or are just renting for the summer - don't just assume that your standard courier will be able to get to you. Talk to locals first. Remember that most cottage country areas do have a day or two delay in reaching you.

BANKING

There are now so many options to bank and complete transactions online. All of the banks and credit unions seem to have set up online banking ease. You can also utilize PayPal as a transaction service to pay online.

FEELING REMOTE AND AWAY FROM INFORMATION

Google it ! YouTube it ! There is no reason for you to feel out of touch if you are connected to the web in your virtual office.

NETWORKING GAPS

Pick your pathway and engage with folks through platforms existing on LinkedIN, Facebook, Twitter and Google + (to just name a few...). If you are remote, you may feel that you are disconnected from people. You can stay in touch through your networks. As part of your plan, you might decide to reach out to a number of people through the week. Drop those into your calendar with a purpose in mind. Check out profiles with your cottage community in their profile. A great twitter search tool for this is Audiense.

DISCIPLINE

Getting your mindset established from the get-go is most critical. Know when you are at "work" and when you are at "leisure". Plan your day, work your plan. Schedule appropriate amount of time for calls, email, social networking. Routine calls or meetings will make for better planning over the longer term. Discipline and planning will make this work with ease. Those early morning sunrises might make for the perfect time to wipe off the morning dew, grab a nice hot coffee, cup of tea, iced drink or smoothie on your deck or dock to check incoming mail and plan your day.

JUST A CALL OR EMAIL AWAY!

The biggest hurdle with establishing a virtual office is you getting your head around the fact that nothing is impossible to get done when you are remote. The other hurdle is getting those that you work with and support comfortable with the fact that you are achieving your goals and accomplishing the work that needs to get done; even though you are not physically at a location. No need to rub it in, but acknowledging accomplishments from your place away is a good reinforcement that the work is getting done.

Get your virtual office established and...enjoy the summer !

VIDEO LINK ALSO HERE - smiles.

@FergDevins @DevinsNetwork