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09 February, 2015

The Train - A Short Story

Rhys took the train to and from work every day. He was always – mostly – on time (his winded pants while he flew into the doors as they closed behind him were still wins after all), and would sit in the same spot each day to people watch. He saw the same people every day, the woman painting her nails, the man eating his breakfast burrito, and the young student with his headphones up too loud.

When getting into Toronto he would get off and merge into the other lines of animal herding queues to get off the platform and walk to work. He would pass the business man kissing his wife before parting ways, notice the man taking his conference call pretending he was in the office already (“Yes, Jenkins, there is some street noise from the window), and would say ‘thank you sir’ to the homeless man who held the door open for streams of drones as they waddled out the door and into their seemingly busy lives.

Rhys wasn’t any of those people. He didn’t have a family, or important calls to be on. He never made breakfast or clipped his fingernails or listened to music too loudly; some would call him acutely aware.

When Rhys finished his day, he packed up, said goodbye to the Secretary and the doorman, and trudged day after day to the train station. He was one of a thousand people who walked through the doors the ignored homeless man held (“Thank you sir”), waited in line to shuffle single file onto the platform with the man and his wife, and always saw the business man fiddling with his mic on his earphones.

He sat beside the lady who was picking her nails (her nails were yellow this week), the man with the empty breakfast containers, and the student who was somehow sound asleep with the music loud enough to sing along to.

It wasn’t an exciting life, but it was routine, and Rhys could appreciate that.

Friday was another normal day. After the morning commute Rhys spent his day having lunch by himself, and working on his notes for a meeting. His manager asked him to take over Paul’s project since Paul wasn’t doing that great a job, and he knew Rhys would agree – Rhys always agreed.

Rhys stayed a little later to finish the project so Nancy wouldn’t have to wait until Monday to file it (she was really nice and always saved a few French Vanilla K-Cups for Rhys). He signed heavily as he said goodbye to the Secretary and to the doorman. He wrapped his scarf tighter against his neck as the February air chilled his skin. The streets were a little emptier than usual (people probably left early on Fridays), and the usual bustle wasn’t outside the train station doors.

Rhys checked his watch but he was only 15m or so later. He shrugged and opened the main doors to make his way into the platform. He froze.

Blood covered the threadbare carpet of the station, and pooled at the bottom of the stairs. Rhys looked stone-faced (too shocked to react) at the bodies on the ground. Bodies lay where they fell.

The business man lay a few feet from his phone, which flew out of his hand when he landed. The man and his wife lay by the stairs - the man was holding her hand. The student still had his earphones on half inside the bathroom, like he had come out and was taken by surprise. A woman with yellow fingernails lay clutching her stomach, eyes listlessly looking at the ceiling. A man and his bag of Tupperware was face-down a few feet away. Dozens more Rhys didn’t recognize; all these people who lead routine lives just as he did, all these people had their routine ended. The faint sounds of sirens could be heard in the distance.

Rhys stared in horror as he slowly stood in the lobby, not wanting to walk inside. The smell of iron overwhelmed him. He heard a sound and watched as the homeless man walked through the blood to the doors. He stood quietly for a second before pulling the door back into his usual position and waited. Rhys looked at the man and noticed the blood splattered on his tattered clothes, and a silver pistol tucked into his waistband.

He looked at the man and the man motioned for him to come through. Not knowing what to do, Rhys walked gingerly through the main station doors, as always. “Thank you sir.” He was a few feet in front of the man, and turned around to look at him.

‘Why?” The pain welled in Rhys’ eyes, and the confusion clouded his brain.

“I was invisible.” The man delivered the line calmly and with a matter-of-fact-ness.

Rhys’ heart started to pound in his chest.

“Why not me?” The man closed the door and dropped the pistol on the ground. He stared at it. His routine was about to change too.

The sirens were louder now.

“I was never invisible to you.”

22 January, 2015

Starbucks Oatmeal Bar recipe

The Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar (or stevia)
1/4 cup honey or agave syrup
1/4 cup almond milk
3 & 1/2 cup of oats
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt

Optional: Cranberries, pumpkin seeds, almonds, sunflower seeds, etc

The Method:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and grease an 8×8 pan with butter or pam

Grind down 2 cups of the oats using a blender or food processor. Mix the rest of the oats with the blended oats

In a pot , melt butter with sugar, honey and salt until completely melted

Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and milk

Add oats and mix until combined. If you are adding optional ingredients, add them in now.

Pour into pan and firmly press and pack down using both hands and a ladle

Bake for 15 mins or until light golden brown

Let cool completely before cutting into squares

16 January, 2015

5 Ways to Move Up and Grow Your Career

Here are some great tips and sage advice for moving up in a role or company, getting noticed, and really growing your career. Whether you are starting a new role or job, or if you are just interested in gaining more exposure, keep these in mind.

Put yourself out there

This is a good one that has always worked well for me. Too often I see colleagues or friends in the shadows of their workplace. Living in the cubicle caves or scurrying away from calling attention to themselves. Some people don’t particularly care about moving up or being noticed; they want to do their job and go home.
But this is not you, no ma’am (/sir).
If there is an opportunity to put yourself out there – take it. Whether your team needs an MC for a work event, an extra for a short video, a volunteer to go to a conference, or help with interviewing new additions to your team – do it.
Make small talk to the guy in the kitchen, make a joke in the elevators, and stop and talk about a common interest with a manager or leader in another department. “Love your potted flowers!” “What a great trinket on your desk!” You’re approachable and capable, why not show people?
The more you do, the more people will know you’re the type of person who isn’t afraid to talk to people (even if you secretly are!). Someone once told me you have to fake it ‘til you make it. Talk like you know what you’re doing even if you don’t. You’ll be amazed at the confidence you gain.

Say hi to everyone

This point doesn’t discriminate. Say hi to everyone you walk by or make eye contact with; the weekly cleaning ladies, the building manager, the guy who sits by himself on your floor, or the VP or CEO. No damage ever came from saying hello.
This can be a literal “hi” or “good morning” or a head nod or smile. Acknowledging others around you is something we don’t do nearly enough. It’s a simple gesture and may one day lead to knowing people you wouldn’t otherwise have known.
Quick story: When I had just started my first job in a professional office, I made a point to say hello to everyone. Let’s be honest, not everyone will acknowledge you back, but some will; in this case, the VP of the department. Every time I saw him I would say hello. That turned into short chats in the hall, and that turned into longer chats about my career. Eventually, I made a contact and that contact gave me some great professional advice and some fantastic networking opportunities.
Case in point: You’re friendly - act friendly. This makes you approachable and gives you an excuse to strike up conversations.

Get involved

This works into the same idea as the first point. Talk to your coworkers, get to know them. Get to know your larger department or business unit. A few coworkers are going out for a drink after work? You should go, even for only 30 minutes. The bonding opportunities and chance to let them get to know YOU is really unparalleled to anything else. People are different outside the office. Take advantage of that.
If it’s someone’s birthday, grab a card from the store and have people sign it. It takes so little time, and it will be something people remember you for. Is there a chance to get out from behind the scenes and do something more suitable for a leading lady (/man)? Take it. See a message to join the Social Committee or Environmental focus group? Go for it. Immersing yourself in the company culture is always fruitful. Whether it’s the prospect of new contacts, getting to know people you work with better, or participating in a common goal, these things help establish a bond between you, your team, and your company. That bond? That’s called Culture. And you’ll find the more you have, the less likely you will seek other opportunities elsewhere and the happier you will be to go to work every day.

Always say yes to opportunity

You know that Jim Carrey movie where he says yes to everything? Let’s not get carried away, but that’s the general idea. There is a difference between an option and an opportunity. An option is something that is available with no direct feelings or desire attached to them. An opportunity is a feeling; it is an option you are connected with. Opportunities can further your career and your life, and it’s hard to know which are which sometimes.
When you come to a fork in the road take a breath and think: will this bring me to more forks in the road (more opportunities) and new experiences? Are you passionate about them? Do they instill excitement or wonder (even fear!)? Those are opportunities. If something comes up and you know it’s not something you want, or are interested in, it’s not an opportunity. Toss it.
By saying yes, you plunge into new experiences and you grow. Sometimes opportunities are scary and sometimes you may not know if it will help or hinder your job or your life. If it’s something you may not ever get a chance to do again, or if it’s something you just have a good gut feeling about (or even if you’re terrified it won’t work but the experience may be beneficial), you should leap with both feet.
Ultimately the choice is yours, and only you can know what is best for you. But generally if something comes up and you have any emotional response to it – take a leap. I moved to a new city by myself to start a new job simply because it was a good experience. Could I have gotten the same job in the same city? Probably, but opportunity knocked and I answered with enthusiasm.

Get a mentor

I can’t stress this enough. Find someone that works in your company (or outside!) that you admire and respect – take your time to suss people out. Do they handle situations well? Do they have others’ respect? Are they a fantastic people manager? Find someone with traits you admire and wish to learn. They don’t necessarily need to work with you, or need to be on your team. I would even recommend two mentors; one inside your company and one outside.
Make a habit of emailing, dropping in, or setting up coffee meetings with them. Talk to them about your experiences and ask for their professional or personal opinion. Tap into their knowledge and ask advice. It is such an awesome feeling to know you can go to this person for a ‘what would you do if you were me’ situation. Great mentors will want to pass on their knowledge and teach others, and getting those skills to add to your own arsenal will only help you grow. I have life advice, job advice, and everything-under-the-sun-advice from some of the smartest and most respected people I know. This kind of feedback you can’t get by sitting at your desk all day.
Some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten (from how to ask for more money, or how to deal with negative employees, to how to lower a fever) was from mentors and leaders I trust and respect. Setting up a mentor early on in your career can be so helpful, even after you leave your current employer. And who knows, maybe one day someone will ask you to be their mentor!
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