Don’t let your obituary be your biggest story – he didn’t #StuartMcLean
February 15, 2017

I am so very sad to learn that Stuart McLean is no longer with us.

But I am so very happy for the time he spent with us celebrating the power of storytelling.

When the news came today. I hung my head and cradled it in my hands. “No” was my reply.

I thought back to his earlier message – that he would need more time – and in the meantime, we should take care of each other. I think that was his way of saying goodbye. Without saying goodbye. Because story tellers, by their nature, never really say goodbye because the best stories never really end. And neither will his.

Dave, Morley and Sam (I have a Sam too), will never really end. They will live on in our memories. That was his gift to us. And our opportunity here, in the very sadness of his passing is to remind his family, his friends and his colleagues, that we will never forget him or his stories. Or his love of this place we call home. Or of our appreciation of a good story.

When those we care about and admire leave unexpectedly, we turn inward. My first thought was how fortunate I was to meet him. Once. At a writer’s festival in Sechelt. I told him how much I had loved his day at the Eaton’s Centre phone booth when he told Peter Gzowski about all the people he’d met using the pay phone and the stories they had to share. He was humble and spoke of how his friends at CBS in the US thought he was crazy but still admired his courage to try that angle. But that was his thing, he had a human angle. And so much of our media is void of it now. I have to say, I’m not sure that he left us so much as we left him.

We have so many stories and such little time.

I often read the obituaries in our local paper. I knew many of them, but not all. I admire their stories. I just wish I’d known them before reading them in the back pages of the local paper. And if today has taught me anything, is that we cannot wait for our obituary to tell our stories and the stories of those we love. Stuart didn’t. He wasn’t a front page kinda guy, but unfortunately, he will be tomorrow, and, it’s my view that he’d hate that.

Live your life. Tell your story. That’s what he taught us. I am grateful but I will miss him so.

Down the Rabbit Hole
May 3, 2014

This column first appeared in the May All Month Edition of the Salmon Arm Friday AM

I always carry a copy of Alice in Wonderland with me. Odd, but true. It’s my go to source of wisdom, inspiration and perspective. You see, Alice had no idea what she was getting into that fateful day. And to some extent, neither do I. Every day is an adventure, especially when you’re a small business owner like me.

You never know who you’ll meet, where you’ll go and what will happen. It’s all very exciting and on occasion, absolutely terrifying. There are cheshire cats, mad hatters and queens of hearts in the business world. There are days where you feel very big and there are days where you feel very small. There are days where you rush around like a mad hatter. And there are days where you might best express yourself with a few swings of a croquet club.

What you might not know is that Alice in Wonderland was not only about words, it was also about numbers. Just like business, as it happens. Both are very powerful storytellers, words and numbers, that is. Lewis Carol was the pen name of a Reverend at an Oxford College. It’s said that Alice’s adventures were a satirical exploration of the mathematical theory of the time. The book was first published in 1865.

It’s my view that modern business is also a satirical exploration of mathematical theory. Despite centuries of commerce, we have yet to find a way to measure what really matters. How much, for example, is a pound of happiness worth? How about an ounce of laughter? Can we benchmark the love we feel for our families and friends? Is there any better key performance indicators than a beautiful sunset followed by a glorious sunrise?

There are, on the other hand, things we are exceptionally good at measuring. Baseball statistics for one (they are more complex than most university level economics courses), debt equity ratios, gross domestic product, trade balances, net worth, interest rates and stock exchange indices. But to what end? I bet Alice would wonder that too. Her adventure was all about finding the answers to riddles as complex and confusing as these. Which is what we all do. And until I figure them out, she’ll be with me enjoying the tea party.

“Who are you?” said the Caterpillar. “I hardly know, sir, just at present – at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have changed several times since then.”

And speaking of stories, I hope you’ll take in the new exhibition now open  and running through to the end of June at the Salmon Arm Arts Centre. It’s called Saga: The Art of Storytelling in the 21st Century. It’s a collaborative and interactive exploration of our stories, how we tell them and how they unite us as the giant tea party that is our wonderful and adventurous community.

PS – You needn’t worry about the Queen of Hearts, she wasn’t invited.