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Monday, November 30, 2009

My journey to purpose

Have you ever been in a moment when everything comes together and you see “the light”? That was me on that morning of March 2003.

Let's say that my early days in Canada were not the way I  had    imagined them to be (there was no money falling down  off of  trees as I had predicted) ;   but  I was happy. It was my fourth month working at a radio station. I was not getting paid but I  was having good times. I was learning a lot thanks to a mentor who became a very good friend over the years. I was working on a project that, in time, would generate money  for  the radio station ( I was hoping there would be enough to  secure  me a contract) and my mentor was teaching me how to do it.

Long story short, the radio got the money, but to my great surprise, I could not get hired because there was a statement in the grant contract that made me ineligible for the job. I did all this work for somebody else! How great! But I kept a positive attitude though. At least I  had learnt how to write grant proposals (the glass is always half full  with me ). So, the hiring process began but we did not have  too  many  candidates for the job ; this was mainly because many  applicants were not eligible.

At that time I had made a couple of friends among which  included one guy on the sixth floor of our office building. He was a self made man who liked  helping new immigrants.  One  day he called me and told me that there was a lady who was looking desperately for a job. He thought our radio station would be a great fit for her. I met the lady. Desperate she was. I told her I would take her resume but I was not the one pulling the trigger. She  had to go through the interview process like the others.

I was amazed by my new home, but I was so homesick. I would  spend  countless hours on the Internet sending e-mails to my friends back home.  I  was a little bit surprised by the  number  of e-mails I was  receiving from different people back home, all of them thanking me for what I'had  done for them.
I never  realized  I  had done all those things they were talking about. I was just having fun, doing what I loved to do and enjoying every bit of them. Along the  way , I made a difference in people's lives without even realizing it. What a story!

That was my commercial break.

Coming back to the radio station lady. After her interview, I got a call from the president of the radio station asking me to  contact  the lady to let her know that she  had  got the job.  I  did. I  wasn't able to get through to her on her phone,  so  I left her a message. As I was reading the bunch of e-mails I was still  receiving  from  my  friends back home ( at this point, you may be thinking that I was not working because I was  checking personal e-mails at the office, but I was), I was listening to a tape from a coaching program I was part of. The guy on the tape was so funny but he was talking about good stuff. Towards the end of the tape the guy  said: “There is a purpose for your life. You may not know it, but there is. And you will meet the people at the right moment, who will be there for a reason ; to teach you something.”

That was amazing. Then, the phone  rang . It was the lady  on the other end of the line. She got my message. She was in tears. She  thanked  me so much, but I did not take the credit (maybe I should have, just  so that I could look good).  What   baffled  me the most was what she said to me. She went: “I am glad I got the position, but most importantly I am so blessed because I will be working with you”. She did not know that she was coming to replace me (me, being ineligible  for  the position). What could I say after that?

All of a sudden, everything came together at that moment. The guy on the tape, the e-mails I was reading, the lady in tears on the phone.....I got it. I found my purpose!!!   My job here on this earth is to make a difference in people's lives doing what I love to do without expecting anything in return.
That was it. The lady on the phone was there for a reason. She was there to take my job (that  was  not the most exciting part), but she was also there to make me realize how my life  had  been so far ;  Giving unconditionally.

I  started crying. I cried like a baby. I went to my mentor's office crying and I told him what happened.
His look was comforting. He  had  been there. He understood (he did not even mention my ugly face when I  was crying).

Since that day, I  have known what my job is. And I  believe that  you are part of it too (aren't you reading my blog?).
Moral of the story: Do you want to know what your life purpose is? Just check your personal e-mails at the office  (just kidding....)
Always a pleasure.
The Journeyman

Monday, November 23, 2009

My journey to understanding

I have heard many times that experience is the best teacher. That is just a theory until you live it.

I used to work in a department whose main purpose was to find accommodation for new immigrants. It was a great experience. Not only was I able to visit many places in the city, but I made many friends too. Some moments were more memorable than others. Sometimes I would work so much that my boss had to remind me about my vacations (get a life, I hear you saying).

Every now and then, I would take 2 to 3 days and go for a trip. And that summer of 2005, I went to South Carolina for a business conference (great road trip in a bus for 16 long hours, half of which spent sleeping). On Tuesday, I came back to the office and a co-worker of mine told me that there was someone I should call (was this a lady? I asked...just kidding). She gave me the phone number of this gentleman. Half an hour later, the guy was in my office and we had a little chat.

After a while, he told me he was new to Canada and his passion was TV production (I guess that was the reason why my co-worker wanted me to talk to him). So I called my people who called some people, and he started to work as a cameraman. He also needed to move in a new place. I found him a cheap one (I had connections as you can tell). After a while, we became close friends and he started opening up a bit. He told me that when I called him for the first time, he was thinking about committing suicide as he felt helpless. In a few words, my phone call saved his life. I was moved by what he told me.

Our conversations kept becoming more interesting with time. And then came the blessings. As I was more and more fascinated by this guy, I started giving him some gifts as I could see he was in need. The first gift I gave him was a nice African shirt that I had for a while but never wore. He liked the shirt. And the next day, what a great surprise I got as one of our co-workers was coming from vacations in Europe. She thought about us and brought us some gifts. I received from her (and this is no joke), 2 brand new suits, one brand new pair of shoes, 6 shirts and 9 T-shirts. This was awesome!!!

After a few days, I met the guy again and he told me that he was facing some challenges as it was the beginning of the month. It was hard for him to move around in the city as he did not have money for transportation. Again, I felt I could help. So I offered him to buy his monthly pass for public transportation. The guy was in tears. He started to call me his father (did I mention that he was 55 years old?). So, I had a son who was almost twice my age (which I won't mention).

And this is when it became really interesting. The next day, I received a call from a great friend and business partner who told me that he wanted to give me a gift. He told me that he just bought a new car and he wanted to give me his previous car as a gift. Are you kidding me? Can this really happen?

Yes, it did indeed happen. I got a car as a gift. This has never happened to me before (and I'm still waiting for a second time...).

Back up a little bit. I gave my friend one African shirt, and I got a bunch of clothes from my co-worker. And then, I gave him the monthly pass for his transportation and then I got a car? What a deal!!! (sign me in anytime).Who said that when you give you will receive? I guess for me it was just a theory until it happened to me...twice.

Moral of the story? You should all buy African shirts. You may end up driving new cars.

Always a pleasure.


The Journeyman

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

My journey to Choq

Here I am again with another unknown word. What in the world is the meaning of Choq? This is the name of the first radio station I worked at in Canada (so far it's the first and only station, but I believe there are many more to come).

How did I come to know about this station? It's a long story.

Here I am, new to Canada, with three years of experience in radio broadcasting under my belt, trying to nail my first job without even getting my work permit yet (Superman, watch out). The only connection I had in Toronto was the Internet (what a good one!), and the only place I knew was the public library (another good one). Networking has been one of my strengths (the Internet and the public library were the first good business contacts I made. I was the man!!!).

But, after a few calls, I knew that my two contacts were not enough. I had to meet real people. However, I kept coming back to the library (I am a faithful friend) because the Internet helped me to keep in touch with my family. One day, while returning from the library, I met a guy I knew back home. I knew him from when he used to work at the National TV station. It was easy to recognize him. We became friends and I told him about my desire to work in a radio station.

He mentioned to me about a French speaking radio station located in downtown Toronto . He gave me a phone number of a person I should contact (now I could improve my network outside my two friends the Internet and the public library).The next day, I called the radio station and asked if I could come and visit. The person on the other side of the line said yes. I thought: these Canadian people are cool!!!

He gave me the address of the place (now my networking was drastically improving) and we set a time and a day to meet. So I went.

The meeting was great. The guy who was working at the station was very nice (didn't I say that about Canadians?). We had a good conversation. I asked him about the types of radio shows they had, to which he responded by giving me a list of programs. To my good surprise, they had a show on sport news. That was my passion. I mentioned that I had a show back home talking about sport (not hockey though). I asked him if it was possible for me to come one day and do the show with the person in charge. He said that he would connect me with the host of the show. Are you kidding me???

I thought: I love Canada , I love Canadians, I love the world....

Two days later, I was on the phone with the host of the sport show. I mentioned my passion for radio, for sport, for Canadians (I was in love with them). And when I mentioned the name of the country I was from, he just shouted: “We are from the same country!!!! Come over on Saturday and let's do the show together”. What are the odds???? This time I was confused. Everybody is nice here!!! It's not only for Canadians; maybe it's in the water people drink here, or maybe it's the weather. I don't know. I was so excited man!

On Saturday, I showed up very early (I didn't even sleep the night before). I first went to see my friend the public library to see what was happening in the sport world (I didn't want to look stupid when I get in front of the microphone). At 10 O'clock I was at the studio. The guy I met before was there waiting for me, but the host of the show was nowhere to be found. Then the guy said: “The host is not coming today. He had a family emergency. Do you think you can do the show by yourself?” OK. This time you may be thinking that I am joking. How in the world!!!??? (Check out my blog: My journey to Bonesha).

What a feeling! I was in front of the microphone, talking about stuff that I was reading at the library half an hour before (it's good that I didn't want to look stupid). I even talked about hockey (hey, I was the only guy available that time. I was the expert! Don't tell me I could not talk about something I knew nothing about.).

Six months later, I was still working at Choq as a volunteer, and then they gave me my first contract. How the whole thing came together is another long story. Stay tuned.

Moral of the story? If you don't know anything about hockey, talk about it anyways. You may get a job.

Always a pleasure


The Journeyman

Monday, November 9, 2009

My journey to my first major project

Have you ever been in a phase in your life when you ask yourself “what's next?”

That was me in the late year 2001. I felt I had accomplished every goal I had set for myself (even though there weren't that many). I had finished university, I was working two jobs (is that an accomplishment?), I had two well rated radio shows, I had won 3 championships as a basketball coach, I had traveled to different countries doing reports and coaching basketball, and above all, I had a very beautiful girlfriend (I think I should have started with this one .......)

So what's next? That question kept bugging me for a while. I was still going through the motion, but my passion was not there anymore.

Then (by now you must be familiar with my “then's”), I received a call from a lady I didn't know at that time. She told me she was from Montreal and she was a friend of my best friend (if you read one of my blogs, it's one of my journalists friends who made it big).

We then met and she told me that my friend was a big time journalist in Canada (I had lost track of him for a while). She connected me to my friend. When we finally talked we had 7 years of catching up to do. I told him about my “what next” situation. Even now, my friend still stretches me with big ideas. He is just a genius (I once saw him write a complete book in two weeks while we were sharing our dorm room at the campus).

“Let's do a project together”, my friend told me. What project? I asked. Long story short, my friend agreed to bring journalists from Canada for a week long training seminar for local journalists, and in return, our journalists would be invited to receive training in Canada . What a brilliant idea!!!! Except one thing.....I would have to pay for everything (flight tickets, accommodation, blablabla....). Of course I was up to the challenge!

I went to my boss at the radio station and told him about the idea. He was excited about that. And when I told him about paying for everything, he couldn't believe I would come up with such a bad idea. He told me to go back to work and forget about it. I went to work, but I wasn’t going to give up. Come on man! What are you talking about? I had found an answer to my “what next” question. Even now as I write this blog I can remember how excited I was at that moment.

After asking for help from a couple of friends in preparing the project proposal, I went out knocking on doors asking for sponsors. Some of my friends thought I was crazy (I think I was...seriously!). But some of my co-workers at the radio took me seriously. The team was made and off we went everywhere asking for sponsors. After a while, a man that I respected a lot, heard about my project and asked me to come out to meet him.

He introduced me to a very successful businessman. This businessman offered to sponsor the entire project. He even added some awesome elements to it.

The long and short of the story is that (and it is really a long story), we brought 3 journalists and 2 musicians from Canada , 6 other musicians from a neighbouring country for 12 days all expenses paid. After the training, we did a series of 3 concerts, a VIP concert in which the President of the country was invited (I still remember him dancing. Unbelievable!!!!); another concert in a night club, and the last one at a packed stadium on a Sunday). We were able to secure a sponsor, the National Airline Company, which provided an airplane to the Canadians for a tour of the country.

I was part of the tour (fantastic view from above). It was during this tour, while travelling in the plane, that something came to me. I had made it!!! I did the project! (which cost over 35 million in the local currency).While my friend was cracking jokes in the plane, I was crying. I cried like a baby (not a pleasant sight, I have to admit). My “what next” question had found an answer. Since then, I have never stopped asking the question “what next?” However, in the process, I lost my beautiful girlfriend. Maybe that should be my next “what next” question. How about that?

Moral of the story? When stuck in life,...... think about inviting a Canadian.

Always a pleasure


The Journeyman

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

My journey to the stage

Most often we watch movies that leave us speechless. That was my case when I saw “The Ultimate Gift” for the first time. It's a must see movie. Very inspirational. I won't ruin the party by telling you the whole story. Watch it if you don't believe me.

After watching it for the fourth time, I started thinking about what I would like to do when I grow up (I consider myself still young. Just look at my picture, you will see). I kept thinking about it for an entire week. Then one day, I went on the computer and I started writing. It took me two weeks, at the end of which I came up with a nine page document (I will be a very busy man when I grow up).

My next move was to print it out and put it on the wall where I could see it every time I wake up (what else would I see? I sleep alone!!). It was fun to look at my future every morning. But after a while I got fed up with the picture I was seeing. I had to do something. Then I asked myself: “What shall I begin with?” And then something inside told me:”Public speaking”. Why not? I thought. I've done it before. I was a teacher, I was a basketball coach and I am doing radio. That would be an easy transition.

But I had no clue how the industry worked, or how I could become a professional speaker. At that time, I was reading a book written by one of the top speakers in the industry. At one moment, he mentioned that he was part of Toastmasters International (a club that trains people to become speakers). I thought...hmm. That would be a start.

Then I went online, I searched for a club that would be near where I was living. I found one, but they were meeting every Thursday evening. I couldn't do it. It was at the same time I was doing my radio show. As I was reading the information, a co-worker of mine knocked at my door. I opened and she went: “Have you heard about Toastmasters International?” Was she reading my mind or what? I showed her what I was reading and she laughed. Do you think it wasn't meant to be?

She then told me that there was a club downtown, they met at lunch time for an hour every Thursday. Needless to say that I became member of the club and went on competing against other clubs (as I am writing this blog, I am smiling as I am looking at a trophy I received recently.....Another tap on my shoulder please).

That was not the funny part. The same week I knew about Toastmasters, I overheard another co-worker of mine saying that United Way Toronto was looking for speakers to help in their fundraising campaign. What do you think I did? One year later, I have done over 40 events for The United Way, and I know that there are many more to come.

I won't even mention a great training I went to in Dallas Texas (stay tuned for another blog about my journey to Texas).

There is no moral to the story other than being aware of what the co-workers are saying. It may help.

Always a pleasure.

The Journeyman.