What I Learned From Being in a Bank When It Was Robbed at Gunpoint


It was the spring of 1997. I remember seeing the guy in front of me in line at the Scotiabank but I gave it no extra thought at the time. It was only after everything happened and he started running away that my mind started spinning.

The whole thing went down fairly quietly. The guy got to the front of the line, passed the teller a note, his hand was in a paper bag and he said he had a gun, the teller gave him the money, and he ran away.

There are a few things that stood out to me that day. I remember the bank manager coming out to calm his employees. I remember that the first cop to show up was on his bike. I remember them shutting the glass doors and locking us all in, which certainly caught the attention of all the passers by, in the middle of the day.

Not much happened for a while until a detective showed up and started taking our statements one by one. When it was my turn he took me into a room and started asking me questions. Nothing too out of the ordinary but I was impressed at the level of detail he used in capturing my response. Every ‘um’ and ‘ah’ was written down.

After telling him it was a man, he asked me how old he was and I replied “older”. The detective asked “Why do you say that?” I replied that I have no idea.

And I didn’t. I never saw the man’s face. So how did I even know he was male? I just inferred he was a man from the clothes he was wearing. But why did I say he was old? He did sprint away after the robbery like he was on fire. The funny thing is that the officer totally accepted that reasoning.

Sometimes we just know things and can’t explain why.

But did I really KNOW that he was old? Or had I subconsciously gone through the exercise of eliminating all other reasonable possibilities.

There is a branch of philosophy that deals a term called ‘Contrastivism’ which suggests that knowledge doesn’t exist. That we can only know something once all other possibilities have been eliminated, but there will always be more possibilities. For instance can we be sure that someone is dead, or is it possible that they are in some kind of coma that perfectly imitates a dead person? For more details you can watch the video below.

Now lets take the perspective of another famous philosopher, Rene DesCartes. DesCartes wondered how we could be certain of anything at all. So he went through the exercise of abandoning all of his beliefs and then examining them each one by one before accepting them again. But what he found is that he could know nothing for sure. Our senses are the first place he looked to as a potential source of certainty, but anyone who saw that white & gold / black & blue dress from a few years ago knows that the senses are far from perfect. He ultimately & famously concluded “I think therefore, I am.” once he realized the only thing he can be sure of is that he was thinking. See a great 10 minute video on this topic below.

So if there is virtually nothing that we can be sure of in life, how is it that we move forward? And how come there are so many people with unshakable belief systems?

I think we seek solace in people who act so sure of themselves because deep down we know how much of a mystery everything is, and will always be, and that can cause us extreme anxiety. So when someone comes along claiming to know things for certain, well we’ll jump on that train in one second! Even if it is a sham.

My personal lesson from this is to try and live my life more based on my experiences right now, in this moment. In contrast to trying to figure it all out first, we instead need to act. And then let the response we get from “life” guide us in our next step. This means we have to accept our failures, we need to learn from our mistakes, and we need to forgive ourselves, and each other, every step of the way.

FYI, they caught the bank robber a couple of days later. And he was an older man.


Image: Sashkin/Shutterstock.com


This One Question Could Challenge Everything You Believe

Yesterday I uploaded my latest video to YouTube and in it I ask one question (see below). The purpose of this question is not to be answered but for the viewer to realize that no answer exists. To send your mind for such a loop that it gives up. That in it’s inability to find a concrete answer it finally goes quiet.

It is in this place of stillness that peace is found. It is the indescribable beauty of the present moment. Here is a blog post of mine on a series of other beautiful quotes that can also take you there.

The most enlightened spiritual gurus on the planet spend most of their lives in this place but for the rest of us we can’t expect more than a glimpse every now and then. But it is such a rich place to be that even just a few moments can teach us so much about how to live our lives.

This is where it fits in to The Passionate Why. There is no quicker way to finding out who you really are, and what you should be doing, than quieting the mind.

Please check out my video and let me know if it has an impact on you. I will be back tomorrow with my Wednesday blog post!

Your Performance is not the Problem


It was late summer back in 1998 and I was finishing off the final work term of my Industrial Engineering degree at Dal. And as everyone is aware, with every single job that you will ever have there is some kind of performance review process to go through.

Judgement day was here and it was time for mine.

Ahead of this meeting I was given a multiple choice questionnaire to fill out that basically described how I thought I did. I filled it out and brought it to the review meeting with my boss. We went through it question by question and he gave his selections for my performance level. Most of his answers were lower than mine, none were higher.

In the discussion following the questionnaire my boss went on to say “When I think of the people that I can count on in this department, your name doesn’t come to mind.” Further he said something to the effect “You don’t really fit in to this environment, and maybe a Government job would be more up your alley.”

Now, I am not going to say I did a great job during that work term, or that I was terribly engaged with the work I was doing. Because I didn’t, and I wasn’t. But there was a serious lack of depth to his analysis of what was going on, and the commentary of what my life direction should be was completely out of line. As well, having just found out I was going to have to write a supplementary exam for one of my courses, he caught me at a particularly vulnerable time.

I had two other work terms for which I had good reviews, but it’s funny how it is always the shitty stuff that sticks with us. That single meeting had an impact on many life choices I made over the next several years. A huge part of my issue with performance reviews is exactly what I described above. The amplified impact of negative feedback.

When you spend the majority of your waking hours at your workplace a poor annual review can haunt you for months. Your self worth takes a hit, your bank account, your mood, it can trigger anxiety and depression. All for what? It seems that many of the side effects of negative feedback can sabotage your ability to improve future performance.

An often overlooked fact is that a person’s performance doesn’t happen in a vacuum. What you are doing and why you are doing it are VITAL components to how well you do it. Are you accessing your Natural Skillset? Do you have a clear purpose?

This is why finding your passion is so important. When you are chasing your passion, performance management almost becomes irrelevant. Where you need to improve a skill you find a way to teach yourself how to do it. When your tools aren’t good enough, you save up and invest in new ones. When you have no time, you simply get up earlier, stay up later, or stop binging on Game of Thrones. When people criticize you, you tell them to go f**k themselves and you keep moving forward. You are on a mission and nothing else matters.

True performance management is a one person activity.

Yes, there are probably dozens of people that can help you do what you do more effectively. But your actual performance, the level at which you work with what you have in the immediate now, can not be improved by someone else.

But everyone wants feedback. Most of the time I believe people just want to make sure they don’t have the terribly awkward and painful conversation at the end of the year.

What I’ve discovered since launching ‘The Passionate Why‘ is the incredible value of real time feedback.

  • Facebook provides instant info for every post telling me how many people have seen it and how it compares to every other one. It tells me when my viewers are most likely online and even breaks it down by gender.
  • On Twitter a sudden jump (or dip) in followers or re-tweets lets me know immediately when I have done something with an impact.
  • On WordPress I know how many people have read my post, which country they live in, and the search terms that were used. I know the best day to post, and the best time of day.
  • And on YouTube I can track the amount of money that is generated from each video. Very minuscule at this point, but the impact is still powerful and even addictive.

I will take this live, ongoing, unbiased, impersonal, continuous feedback any day over an uncomfortable annual performance review.

Image courtesy of:LeoWolfert/Shutterstock.com


Finding Your Passion, THEN Doing VS Finding Your Passion BY Doing

I would have to say that I have tried both roads.

First of, I have spent much of the last 7 years trying to figure out exactly who I was. To say it began as an intense spiritual journey may be understating it a little. My first introduction to spirituality happened when I pulled ‘The Power of Now’ off of my wife’s bookshelf in 2009.

I then proceeded to read it and reread it about 5 times. It was like a bible to me. It seemed that whatever I was going through I could simply turn to a random page and after a few short minutes of reading it would relax me.

I then discovered other spiritual teachers like Mooji, Alan Watts, Marianne Williamson, Nisargadatta Maharaj, Wayne Dyer, and so on. At first I was drawn to them for healing, but then it turned to a more contemplative tone. Who am I? Why am I here? What is my purpose?

As I had mentioned in a recent post I spent several years contemplating these ideas everyday during my lunch break at a nearby park bench. I wanted to know exactly who I was because I felt I couldn’t live my life authentically until I did.

I essentially put everything on hold. Nothing was more important than figuring it all out. Once I did, and only then, would I be able to live the life of my dreams.

Eventually I came to a point where my dissatisfaction with life needed a more immediate solution. The very nature of spirituality doesn’t allow for actionable answers. And I soon began to understand the arrogance in thinking there is concrete path to spiritual enlightenment. Even to think that I understood what enlightenment was, was foolhardy.

Gradually I began to take a new approach, and this is when I discovered Simon Sinek. He opened my eyes to a whole new take on discovering your purpose. His TED talk inspired me at work, and his ‘Why University‘ course online offered up a new path to discover who I was. From there I discovered a few others like Jim Collins, Daniel Pink, and Marcus Buckingham.

But soon I realized that this was just more of the same. When was I actually going to start DOING SOMETHING??

I have this saying I wrote down a few years ago that makes a lot sense to me but I never followed my own advice. it goes like this:

“It’s hard to go with the flow when you’re standing on the dock.”

I have been standing on the dock this whole time, staring at the water, waiting for the perfect time to jump in the river. I have been over thinking, and over strategizing, and overlooking the most important part of finding out who you are. And that is to fully and completely participate in life!

Life has this incredible feedback loop of informing you about what you are doing. When you are trying new things with an open mind you learn exponentially faster about where your alignment is. About where exactly your place in the world is. When you jump in the river and start kicking and flailing about you learn very quickly what works and what doesn’t. When you are standing on the dock it is all theory.

That is what this whole experience is about for me. ‘The Passionate Why‘ is about me jumping in, applying the experience and knowledge I have gained along the way, and adjusting my course as I go. Even now I am constantly adjusting what I think this social media endeavor should be. Here is a brief summary of my path of doing so far:

  • My first idea was to blog about home budgeting and build a tool that can help my readers. BORING, so I dropped it.
  • Next, from what I had learned about purpose I wanted to make a video blog where I talk about how corporations can find their purpose with my own unique approach. It’s been done by people with much more experience than me.
  • The next iteration of that idea was to discuss, review and compare purpose driven organizations to inform customers so they could spend their money on organizations that best reflected their values. This turned out to be very intensive for the time I had available.
  • I then took a deeper look at what I truly wanted and I created the process for discovering your natural skillset. This confirmed my desire for a YouTube channel, but what should it be about?
  • My first approach was that the channel would be a combination of documenting my journey towards finding my passion and providing tools and tricks to help my viewers.
  • I soon realized that my specialty would be shorter videos on little tips and have very recently started to focus on these so called hacks.
  • My latest adjustment is that while I have a few of these hacks, I may not have enough content to keep me producing past 6 months. If I really want to help people perhaps the best approach is to create a community where everyone who is on the same journey as myself can contribute or benefit from it. Thus I have just created this Google+ community.
  • I am still contemplating whether a similar community would be a good fit on LinkedIn.

As you can see it is a very iterative process. I don’t know where this will take me next. Maybe the Google+ community will crash and burn. But then that will just pave the way for my next move.

It certainly is a scary process as my mistakes and missteps are there for everyone to see. But I am more sure than ever that this process will lead me to where I really want to be. And it is definitely better than still being that guy standing on the dock planning the perfect way to dive in.

How To Discover Your Natural Skillset

One of the biggest breakthroughs I had during this entire journey of finding my passion happened when I decided to take a very specific look at my own history. In the interest of finding out exactly WHAT I should be doing, and HOW I should be doing it, I decided to make a list of all of those skills, or areas of interest, that I had completely taught myself with very little outside help.

These could be things that you did on your own time and never have told a single person about. Or it may be well known that these skills are your specialty. Be sure to leave out any skills that came natural to you without practice. While these provide a certain insight they lack an element of choice which is key in this approach.

For the purpose of this exercise I suggest that you now make a list of at least 10 skills, or areas of expertise, that were self-taught. This may take some time. I would expect anywhere between 30 to 60 minutes as you think back over your childhood, your teen years, early adulthood and so forth. To assist you in developing your own list I have included my list below. It will help provide an idea of what you should be looking for.

  1. Play the guitar
  2. Write a choose your own adventure story
  3. Video editing
  4. Become a ball hockey goalie
  5. Started writing a blog
  6. Maintaining a detailed home budget
  7. Taught myself about Spirituality
  8. Creating Presentations
  9. Beating Mortal Kombat on one quarter
  10. Hip Hop dancing – at least the early 90’s style 🙂
  11. Performing lacrosse type floor hockey dangles
  12. Designing fun trivia questions

Now that you have your list I want you to go through each item on your list and come up with 3 or 4 reasons of WHY you decided to learn that particular skill or area of expertise. Again, to assist you I will provide my list with the reasons for each item.

  1. Play the guitar
    • Coolness factor, Could replicate the work of musicians I admired and the songs I loved, play songs at parties
  2. Write a choose your own adventure story
    • Loved reading them, Fun to Share, Liked creating stories
  3. Hip Hop dancing – at least early 90’s style 🙂
    • To have fun, to impress, create a show, do what others couldn’t
  4. Video editing
    • Simply Loved it, Enjoyment, Coolness factor, To impress and entertain
  5. Become a ball hockey goalie
    • Enjoyed it, Influence the result, Was good at it, Independance
  6. Started writing a blog
    • Enjoyed expressing myself, Liked to write short articles, Integrating with other social media, Liked the immediate feedback
  7. Maintaining a detailed home budget
    • Necessity, Enabled me to relax about finances, Could plan big expenditures
  8. Taught myself about Spirituality
    • Soothed the intensity of my depression, Was very profound, Offered explanations for the deepest questions
  9. Creating Presentations
    • Showmanship, to impress, to be interesting, to be profound
  10. Performing lacrosse type floor hockey dangles
    • Coolness factor, the challenge, Recorded on video to create a show, wanted to impress

Don’t continue to read past this point until you have finished your why’s for each item. The next portion is what provides the most insight and I don’t want to influence your why responses based on how it impacts what happens next.

Now that you have completed all of your why’s we need to look deeper. Which of the items now seems to stand out from the rest. Of all the why’s you have given, which ones resonate most deeply with who you are. The method I used for doing this was that I looked for the word “Love”. If one of these skills could evoke such a powerful emotion than I needed to pay close attention to them. You could use this approach as well, or try something else if you don’t toss around love in this context like me. Look for words that indicate that something deeply visceral is happening here. Maybe the word ‘joy’, or ‘happy’.

Regardless, I took the three items with the word ‘love’ and exclusively focused on them. They are:

  1. Play the guitar
    • Coolness factor, Could replicate the work of musicians I admired and the songs I loved, play songs at parties
  2. Write a choose your own adventure story
    • Loved reading them, Fun to Share, Liked creating stories
  3. Video editing
    • Simply Loved it, Enjoyment, Coolness factor, To impress and entertain

The next thing I did was look at all of the other why’s I gave for these skills. I saw things like Coolness, playing at parties, sharing, creating stories, enjoyment, entertaining.

It didn’t take long for the idea of starting a YouTube channel to come to the forefront of my mind. I would definitely enjoy making cool & entertaining videos and sharing them with others online!

This approach definitely seemed to work out well for me. I am patient zero though. If anyone reading this decides to give this a try I would absolutely love to hear how it went. Please tell me whether or not it provided any insight into what you should be doing with your life. At the very least it should help create a deeper sense of self awareness and act as another big step down this road towards passion.

The next step is about content. In a future post I will tell you how I decided what my YouTube channel should be about.


My Quick Tips Episodes

Along with ‘My Morning Drive’ episodes I will also be doing these other videos I call ‘Quick Tips’. These are going to be much shorter clips that focus on one simple idea. With these videos I am hoping to provide little tricks and pieces of advice that I have learned over the last few years so that they may trigger some progress in the pursuit of your passion.

Sometimes I will plan these episodes and other times they will probably just pop into my head and that moment.

Below I have included my first two Quick Tips videos. Please have a look and I hope that you will enjoy them, and perhaps even find them useful.

Have a great day!


My Morning Drive

Hi Everyone!

Today I published my first video in what I hope will be an extensive and useful series. I have utilized pretty much the only free time I have and set up a camera in my car so I can churn out video content for The Passionate Why on my drive to work.

I must admit it was an odd feeling at first talking to myself in the car. It took a while to get started, and then it took a while to get on a roll. I captured over 18 minutes of footage but only the last 5 minutes was usable. I will aim to improve that ratio in the future…

In the video I talk about how to find your passion, and in a somewhat unstructured way, I highlight the three major aspects. They are:

  1. Defining your world. Those people, things, and places that you are most connected with.
  2. Highlighting your skills that we’re self taught and the core reasons you learned them.
  3. Leveraging your life experience.

The combination of these three attributes is what can lead you to finding a passion. It is applying those self taught skills to the content of your life experience in a way that enables you to make your world a better place.

In future videos I will dive more deeply into each of these three aspects but I think this particular one does a good job of setting the stage for those future discussions.

Have a great day!

The Opinion Trap

It doesn’t take too much observational skill to see how often social media is used for the expression and promotion of someone’s personal opinion. If your Facebook feed is like mine you have probably witnessed a few people on your friends list go toe to toe over some hot button issue of the day.

And as I observed these arguments quietly on the sideline I would feel the urge to participate and add my two cents to the mix. I used to jump in quite often until I realized the negative effect it was having on me.

It became all consuming. After constructing the perfect post to express my point of view I would hit send and anxiously wait for the onslaught of replies either telling me how right I was, or that I was full of shit, or even worse I would be ignored all together!?

I began to see how useless these exercises were because no one ever changed their mind. It became this forum for hostility and would ultimately spiral out of control. I have seen friends delete each other from their friends list and at one point I had to delete one of my posts that triggered a heated discussion.

My point is that we have been taught to express our point of views and then to vigorously defend them at all costs. We leave little room for growth. And when trying to discover your passion this can be a huge road block.

Once we form an opinion about ourselves we lock the door and throw away the key on that particular aspect of our lives. We consider it final, eternal, and unchanging. But what if we are wrong?

One example from my own life was my golf game. I was convinced that I had a pretty good golf swing but was only doing one or two minor things wrong. If I could just figure out those simple things I was sure that my golf game would be transformed completely. For years I would practice making minor adjustments here and there only to experience utter disappointment on the golf course with incredibly high scores.

Ultimately everyone reaches a breaking point. I became so ashamed of my inability to get any better that I forced to look at everything in my golf swing from the ground up. And it was only at this point that I actually started to see real, sustained, improvement.

But why let it get to this point. Don’t classify something about yourself as a certainty and never challenge the idea. Let it be proven everyday. Allow yourself the freedom to be wrong. When it comes to knowing who you are maybe you’re not so smart, but maybe that’s ok.