Finding Your Centre

LIFE is a series of twist and turns... it's important to "find your centre". Don't allow people, events or circumstances to cause you to detour or fall. Stay focused!

In 2008, I received a new kayak from my wife Linda with all the supporting gear for Father’s Day. For most of the year it resided in the basement of the cottage, only touching the water three times. So, this summer I decided to reciprocate and I also bought Linda a kayak. This was a great decision because now every chance we get, our kayaks are in the water and we enjoy the peace and enjoyment they create. I purchased Linda’s kayak from the Paddle Shack on Highway 11, near Gravenhurst. The sales associate was showing us all the features and benefits when he made a statement that caught my attention.

He said “once you find your centre the rest becomes easy”!

That statement has resided with me all summer, causing me to think about my life from a new perspective.

As a kid growing up, I remember my mom always yelling at me, “Mervin, stay away from the water!” I am accident prone or as others may say, clumsy. I love the water and was known to climb the rocks, explore the shoreline and maybe go just a little bit too close to the water’s edge. Without exception, I would fall in but little did that detour me, even as an adult. Once at the cottage, I was at the water’s edge, which is very rocky, and as I was walking along, fully dressed, with wallet, Blackberry and money in my pockets, my foot slipped and I took an unplanned bath. Recently when I was in Portugal, I decided to walk the beach. The tide was out, so it was a sandy shoreline with no expectation of me being washed away. As I walked with my jeans rolled up, in bare feet, the ocean surprised me and a wave came in all the way up to the road with me caught in the middle, and I received an unexpected salt water bath. Needless to say, the wife and kids enjoy many laughs at my expense. So for me, balancing a kayak while paddling, upon entry and upon exit, is a major challenge. And yes, if you are wondering, just last weekend while entering the kayak, I lost my balance and enjoyed a fresh, cool and very wet morning soak. So when Mr. Paddle Shack said finding your centre is the most critical first step when learning to kayak, I knew from experience what he meant.

Last weekend, while Linda was participating in the 60km “Walk to End Breast Cancer”, my son Richard and I decided to go mountain biking. I really enjoy mountain biking and always prided myself on my ability to balance and control my bike in rough terrain. We choose the Halton Conservation mountain biking trails at the top of the Niagara Escarpment. Upon entering, a sign noted green (beginner), blue (intermediate), black (advanced) and double black (expert), just like the skiing trails. To be nice to his old man, Richard suggested we start on blue. I was fine with that. So off we went, excited, anxious and energized. 

That’s when the statement “finding your centre” was really brought home to me. 

While some of the trails were flat, making the ride easy, others were also very narrow from a groove being carved in the ground so that a mountain bike had very little room or ability to do anything creative. A rider was left simply following the path that others had defined. It made me think that staying in the same groove continually is safe but boring, certainly not very challenging and certainly does not promote risk taking or develop one’s ability. I was anxious to do more. That “more” arrived sooner than I expected. 

A list of trail names provided some understanding of the terrain we would face. These included:

-Cheater’s Alley
-Xtream Trail Bypass
-Rough Trade
-Rock Garden
-Rocky Road
-Quarry Trail
-Wizards Way
-Wide Open
-Farmer Peter’s Field

Each trail (some blue, some black and even double black) had its own surprise, whether it was a steep downhill run, protruding rocks, loose gravel, water, stumps, twists and turns, tree stumps and one-inch wide bridges!

Whatever the trail designers could think of they put in front of us to try and slow us down, deter us, create equipment failure or cause us to loose our balance, eventually throw us off our bike and stop or maybe give up. 

There were times when I wanted to stop and give up. I thought if I have to climb one more hill, face one more obstacle, go another mile, I just can’t. But my energized son kept me moving and after 16km and 3 hours of travelling on trails of varying difficulty, we made it home. Hurrah!

Life is like that, isn’t it? People, events and circumstances seemingly all have one objective in mind and that is to throw us off our centre, to cause us to lose our focus and our balance, to deviate from the centre and fall down and give up. 

But, once we find our centre, it doesn’t matter what is thrown at us, what surprises occur, what obstacles are put in our way, what people say or do, you and I ARE able to overcome.

Michael Lee-Chin, the former CEO of AIC, when interviewed by MacLean’s magazine recently said it this way: “It doesn’t matter what people say or what people do to you or what happens, as long as you know that you have done the right thing”. Knowing you have done the right thing is determined by “finding your centre”.

Once you find your centre, dealing with life is a lot easier and rewarding.

After I found my centre when kayaking a few times, each trip became easier and more rewarding. I was able to improve my balance and co-ordination, and venture into new unchartered territory with confidence.

Since they are constructed of people, organizations must also find their centre and not let events or circumstances cause them to lose focus. The upheaval of the last one to two years has caused many companies to misfire or fall to the onslaught of events and circumstance. These were once mighty powerhouses that were considered invincible and infallible, and have now fallen to the wayside. Because they deviated from their core or centre, they got caught in the upheaval, lost their focus and ultimately failed.

As CMAs we have a personal, professional and organizational responsibility to know our centre and be champions of personal and corporate sustainability.