A story of Alcohol, Leadership, Agility, Inclusive Team Building, and Love

The last few weeks I have been meeting up from friends from a past software company I worked at a few years ago.  This was one of the greatest high performing teams I have ever been a part of.  We worked hard and played hard. We made mistakes, we learned, and we delivered. Meeting up with them and this being St. Patrick’s Day reminds me of one of my favourite times in my life.

A few years ago, our team just hit a major milestone that took a lot of late nights and weekend work to meet…so we were going out to celebrate.  The team arranged a night out and made sure that we were going to a wheelchair accessible venue to make sure I could join.  Being new to Toronto I found this incredibly heartwarming.  I told my wife that I was going out after work for a dinner and a couple drinks and I shouldn’t be too late (so I thought at the time)…especially given this was a Thursday night.

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We celebrated like the world was ending.  Drink after drink.  We laughed, we bonded, and we drank.  We were discussing future features and functionality…and drank some more.  When I was having trouble holding shot glasses, my team would quickly help.  At 10:35pm I simply texted my wife, “I’m drunk”. 13 shots of Sake will do that.

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My team members escorted me home.  They first tried to role in the wrong condo.  I tried to tell them that it wasn’t my condo, but not until they saw the upset resident who was not too happy that they were trying to roll in a drunken disabled stranger into his house at 1:40am on a work night that they finally believed me.  He was not nearly as upset as my wife was when they finally rolled me into my condo.

At 1:45am I rolled into the condo.  My wife met us at the door.  To say she was not too happy would be an understatement.  People she never met was rolling her husband home on a weeknight.

She was not angry at me because I was drinking all night with my colleagues, she was upset because she was scared that her disabled husband was drunk and lost in our new huge city of Toronto.  Her inconsiderate husband neglected to keep her up to date about his whereabouts.  Her husband has learned a lesson and was incredibly apologetic for weeks after.  In a related note, I emailed apple about programming the iPhone Siri to better interpret drunken slur voice commands. 

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I said, “ Hey honey, meet my friends…”  I learned that introducing my friends to my wife at 1:45am is not the best time to do this. 

I fell asleep with the look of death starring at me only to wake up with the same look of death.  

Filled with Adrenaline at 6am I had my helper throw me on my exercise bike.  Five minutes in I realized I was still intoxicated.  So I jumped off.  As my helper was doing my morning routine he could not help to laugh.  He has never seen me drunk/hungover before.  There was a coelation between his laughter and how angry my wife was getting.  I said, “Hey Chuckles, keep it down.  I want to feel like George Jettson and go through the production line of shave, shower, and dress as autonomous as possible”. Soon as my wife left for work with only a few hours of sleep, I cancelled my morning meetings and handed my helper the tv remote.  I said I will pay you for a few extra hours if you let me take a nap before heading to work.

I rolled into work about 11:45am. Although I was freshly showered and dressed I could still smell last night’s alcohol.  It turns out that we must have spilled on the armrest of my char when we were doing toasts the night before.  Only me and one other person from the team made it into work that day.  I rolled to him to ask him how much I owed him for the wheelchair cab home.  He said that there were no wheelchair cabs available so the team flagged down a delivery truck and they lifted me and the power-chair into it to be driven home.

I emailed my wife to share this new piece of information and she said, “This is sending like the Hangover movie”

That night we were meeting her family to go out for her birthday dinner at a nice Italian restaurant.  I emailed her to ask her if she could get off work early to help me into bed so we could go for a nap before dinner out.  I will paraphrase her response to keep this blog post PG and say her response was a ‘no’.  It never ceases to surprise me that in my head at the time it sounded like a logical request.

I left work early, bought her birthday gift, and went out for dinner.  However, I was in bed by 8pm.

Important concepts:

  • Leadership - I empowered the teams to make decisions and produce a way home for me.
  • Agility - Transparency - I should have been more transparent with my wife on my whereabouts and well being
  • Agility - Definition of Done for a night out drinking needs to include washing the power-chair of alcohol spills
  • Team Building - Creating an exercise in which you bring home a teammate that has drank too much is effective
  • Equality - A husband with Cerebral Palsy can be just as much of a jerk than a husband without a disability

Our old team met up a couple weeks ago to do dinner as one of them was moving back home to the Philippines.  I told them that my wife had one request, “Please don’t come home drunk at 1:45am again with strangers”.  They replied with, “We have already met her, so we are no longer strangers” 😃  I was home by 9:30pm.

 You will always remember those teams you have been a part of that were incredibly effective.  They share things in common - they do amazing work, they challenge each other, and they have each other’s back.

I’m happy to say my wife and myself will be celebrating 14 years of marriage this September.

A Degree in Independence - Post Secondary Crossroads

This is the time of year where soon to be graduating high school students learn which Universities or Colleges they have been accepted in.  They now have to make the gut wrenching decision of where to go.  They will look at many factors - programs, reputation, scholarships/bursaries, etc.

This made me think back to when I had to make the same difficult decision.  In addition to what other kids had to consider, having Cerebral Palsy, using a power wheelchair, and needing to find personal care to help me shower, dress, etc.  This made the decision even more incredibly difficult.

I was torn between my loves of Computer Science and Business.  Also, what was seeming attractive was to take a year off to discover myself like some of my other friends.  I was really struggling.

My dad was watching me struggling to decide.  He said, “Let’s be real, your not going to be a policeman, fireman, or construction worker.  You know what else your not going to be?  Living under my roof for free the rest of your life!  You better decide.”

My dad had a way to be direct and real…

Only now I can appreciate what anxiety my parents were going through.  Not only were they going to have their youngest leave home to start their life journey, but for the first time they were going to have to trust complete strangers to take care of their disabled child who is dependent to have someone get them ups in the morning, shower, dress, get to class, etc…”.  They fought numerous battles with schools and governments to give me this opportunity…now…we were all vulnerable to what was going to become our new lives.  

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I had a huge amount of anxiety just dealing with going away for school like all other kids do.  Away from my family.  Away from all my friends.  Away from the only town I have ever known to move to a new city.  

I went away.  I handled the harder academic workload.  I trusted and managed my personal care.  I learned to figure out how to manage to go shopping to buy shampoo and food.  That magical shampoo bottle I had growing up at home that never ran empty did not come with me.  My magical fridge that miraculously replenished itself with more food was also left behind.  
I learned. I overcame. I was lonely. I made lifelong friends. I have amazing experiences, some of them make me appreciate that I went to university pre-smartphone and social media era.  I made mistakes. I got opportunities. I became me.

I have multiple degrees and a diploma as I’m a lifelong learner.  However, what I learned about myself, resilience, and independence far exceeds my academic achievements.

Thank you mom and dad.  We did it. I love you.  

No Heros Required - A Callout to be better humans

I have been struggling over what I experienced Tuesday morning on the way to work.  

In the morning we are all in a rush to get to work to do all the things we need to do and not enough time to do.  On Tuesday, I was on my way to work to teach the Professional Product Owner Course.  I was running a little late and 3 TTC trains came that was too full for me to board with my power wheelchair.  While waiting a lady came in a walker.  I told her when the next train came I would block the people on my right to let her board first and sit in the blue seat designated for disabled people.  The next train came, doors opened and I moved to the side to block people on the right to let her board.  Some guy stepped over me to get in and shoved this lady back causing her to fall backwards on the platform.  I heard the thump and walker slide.  The rude guy waved for me to enter...but I stayed behind.  I was the only one that remained, the train left.  The once crowded platform was now empty.  I asked her if she needed me to call 911?  She said, “No, I will wait until someone comes that can help me get to my feet”.

I kept talking with her to make sure she was coherent.  I finally offered that if she held onto my powerchair that I could pull her up…and she agreed to try.  As I began to backup to get her to her feet, I had a sudden fear.  I don’t want to pull her up too fast and have her fall into my lap.  When I’m dressed for work I look pretty hot and don’t want to give her mixed signals.  She stood up and we made our way to the bench.  After a couple trains we boarded…she got off the stop before me and seemed fine.

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A little frazzled, I shared my story, people called me a hero for helping her.  I’m no hero.  I have many faults.  I can be mean, I can be politically incorrect…I am imperfectly me.

A hero is someone that has to offset jerks in the world.  At best, a hero or champion is simply overcompensating for an imbalance of ignorance. At best, I was simply not being a jerk...at that moment

Let’s spend less time celebrating perceived heroism and just all try to be better humans.  This way together we can help each other in this unfair world to enjoy our time here.

Until next time...

Confessions of a Rolling B@st@rd - The Need for Speed

In my previous post I talked about the whole operations of recruiting/training/managing my personal care to get out the door each morning to work as a professional with Cerebral Palsy.  Now I will share my commute.

With my recent expanded role, I am spending more time in the downtown office which makes it easier to get to work.  Although I have to take an extended journey as not all subway stops are accessible, I have found a new exhilarating sport…slalom pedestrian racing!

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When I get off the subway I have to roll from one end of the Eaton Centre (huge mall) to the other.  With the super waxed flooring it is the perfect opportunity to dial up my power chair to top gear, full throttle.

At 7:30am the mall congestion is light enough to make top speed possible, but enough congestion to make it irresponsible.

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With my headphones blaring ‘Bulls on Parade” I blast off!  I love the feeling the wind against my face.  Things blurring as I race past them.  I love how people jump to the side when they hear me coming up on them.  Oncoming traffic (people) that are in my path look at me with fear as they are not sure that I will be able to swerve around them.  The truth is that I don’t know either…I’m just trying to beat my previous time of 3 minutes, 23 seconds.  As a coach, I help people face their fears...so I'm just doing pro bono work in the morning. 

I have learned that if I keep my swerving tight that I get a way better time.  This means I just graze their coats.  I see them saying something to me as I fly by…but my music is blaring.

As I proceed to the PATH the hallways narrow, more people, with rolling luggage….that’s when the fun doubles.  There are people that always try to squeak through the individual doorway.  These people are the brave.  If I hit you there is a good chance one of us will be hurt…I like my chances.  

Once I make it to the office my brain is clear.  Ready to start my day.

Find the joys in life no matter what your circumstances or limitations you have.  It's there if you look for it.

*Disclaimer* - there has been no able bodied people harmed in racing to date…but the journey continues.

A Story of a Professional with a Disability - Moonlighting on the side...

Being a professional with a disability is like working two careers:  

* The one I get compensation for - leading organizations to adapt continuous change.

* The other career - managing an organization of personal support workers to allow me to have a full life.

 Multiple jobs...

Multiple jobs...

 This post about the later, managing my care.  Recently I came to the realization that not every professional in the world has to deal with this…and it is a very stressful activity.  Before I go any further, I recognize that everyone has things to do in the morning to start their day…and I’m not saying mine is more, rather unique.

With my Cerebral Palsy (CP) I need help getting up in the morning to get out of bed, dress, help with my workout, shower, shave, and dress for work.  I hire personal support workers to help me with this.  Although my wife assists me in emergencies and vacations…I prefer to keep the role as wife and support worker separate.  I am responsible to recruit, interview, hire, train and manage my support workers.  I have a well refined process or each step in my morning routine which requires details that if they are overlooked is the difference between an ordinary day and a disastrous day.

 Competing for PSWs

Competing for PSWs

There are a lot of great personal support workers out there.  The challenge is that I can only offer 5.5 hours a day.  I’m competing against other employers like nursing homes, group homes, etc. that can offer full-time hours, benefits, and a lot of flexibility for time off as they have a full staff of people to cover one another. I employ 2 personal support workers that coordinate time off with one another.

I have a huge need for reliability and dependability for the morning shifts.  Being a professional, I cannot miss work unexpectedly or be late as it might be weeks or months before I can get back in Executive’s calendars or make decisions in important meetings.

My day starts at 5am.  When I mentioned the details, the margin of error in aligning my shirt, pants, underwear is millimetres.  It’s the difference between being comfortable all day & able to use the washroom and pressure sores, being uncomfortable all day, and washroom accidents.  Once I leave for work, I’m locked in until I get home…I don’t have the luxury of adjusting clothes myself throughout the day.

I need the trust that someone will show up…on time.  If they are late it causes instant anxiety as I am trapped in bed and my wife has to start rearranging her morning to backfill. 

 A lot of resumes

A lot of resumes

A few weeks ago, one of my helpers gave their notice.  They had a full-time offer somewhere else.  Although they gave two weeks notice, it was a week before I left for vacation.  Immediately I had to post a job description on job boards.  My best case is that I would have someone selected before vacation and onboard/train them when I returned from vacation.  I received 40 resumes, screened them, and conducted phone interviews to decide who I would bring in for a face to face interview.  I conducted 28 phone interviews describing the role and emphasizing the need for dependability.  One person said, “5am is a little early for me, can I do 9am?”.  Unfortunately, my Cerebral Palsy wakes up when I do…so I passed.

The week before vacation I managed to schedule 4 interviews with my wife and me.  It’s important to have my wife involved in the selection process as these people will be in our home. None of them showed up. I left for vacation and extended the job posting.

When I returned I screened 45 resumes, 20 phone screens, and scheduled 4 face to face interviews.  Only one showed for their interview.  Luckily, this candidate had experience working with a professional with a disability.

This week they start and I had to put a schedule together for training.  This week I have critical meetings and presentations first thing 3 out of the 5 mornings.  Luckily I found 2 consecutive days that I can afford to be late.  Training causes me the biggest anxiety in the process.  I have to be ‘on’ and sensitive to articulate and explain every detail of showering, dressing , etc.  The morning routine will be 50% longer.  I will be incredibly vulnerable as I will be naked in front of someone that was a perfect stranger only days ago.  I will likely be dropped, fall down, and be pinched. 

 Vulnerability of being exposed and defenseless

Vulnerability of being exposed and defenseless

There is a light at the end of the tunnel.  After a couple weeks this will be a common routine to the new worker and it will be our new normal.  Until they move on to a job with more hours…than it starts all over again.

This is my normal. I’m not complaining as this allows me to go to engage with my passion and work with a lot of incredible individuals.  All of the above has made me the leader and change agent that I am today.  These skills and experiences has gave me the grit to build great products and organizations.  

I am so thankful to all my co-workers and boss who immediately asked what they could do to help me through this difficult time.  Their offering of support made me forget about what I was going through for a moment.

I am blessed for my amazing wife.  Without her support and love…this would be unbearable.

Now I need to spend some time preparing this week for the job I get paid for.  Until next time...

2016 was a year of choice...

If 2015 was the year of change, 2016 was the year of choice. I chose who to spend time with. I chose where I wanted to lead. I chose my health. I chose to live...

February we chose to go on vacation with dear friends we met the previous year on vacation from Sarnia.  Kelly and I love spending time with them. My tweets from sea the first day went in this order:

  1. "I like my drinks served to me like I like software - continuous delivery' ~1:35pm
  2. "I'm drunk" ~ 3:10pm
  3. From Kelly " Having dinner with friends as Dave is passed out in our room a sleep for the night" ~6:43pm

Although Day 1 at sea was not productive by most standards - it was followed by walking up 60 steps to go on a waterslide for the first time in my life. It I climbed the stairs in fear. I slid down the slide with excitement. I stood at the bottom accomplished. You do not grow without passing through fear.  I also walked into the ocean and looked back to the beach and saw the world from a new perspective.

I did a number of speaking engagements in 2016. I did talks on 'Leading with Imperfect Feet' which talks about my walk on the beach, into the ocean and how that paralleled my leadership style in leading change in large organizations. I got the extreme privilege to do my first keynote ever at Agile Ottawa.  Although I have trouble standing, I was humbled to inspire 500 people to stand and applaud after my talk.  I'm still choked up.

I chose to move on professionally in 2016. I left my previous company to take on leading the Agile movement at Scotiabank's Digital Factory.  Although my time at BlueCat was short, the relationships I made with amazing people who I engaged with 16-18 hours a day in helping develop a leaderful-innovative culture will always be something I remember.  I do not get emotional at work often, but when 85 people assemble in your office the last day to share what you meant to them...it will bring tears to you. Love you all.

Every end is followed by a new beginning. I have the privilege of serving my amazing team of agile rockstars and Senior Leadership across the organization.  The first six months have had me focused on Digital Operations in Canada with this year also working with Mexico, Peru, Chile, and Columbia.  This has been an amazing experience both personally and professionally.

In 2016 Kelly and I chose to spend time with our family and dear friends. We have fantastic memories of Blue Jay games, the Science Center, ROM, house parties and over priced pots and pan parties.  It's frustrating not to see everyone we would love to see, but it fills our heart with the ones we do.

In 2016 I chose to continue swimming and build up my cardio conditioning.  Spending countless hours with Aimee has made me a way better swimmer.  Late this year I made the choice to start doing weight training and stretching after a 24 month hiatus I was disappointed and ashamed that I let it fall, but glad I chose that to be the start of a comeback instead of the end of the story.  If my body continues to respond favorably...stay tuned for the next challenge.

I did not get to blog much personally this year.  As I get older the years go by quicker.  No matter how fast life goes I want to make sure that the ones I love know how much you mean to ma and how you inspire me to fight through the struggle of pushing on through my challenging amazing life.  Kelly, family, and friends...I love you.  Happy New Year! 

 Me and my everything

Me and my everything

2015 was a year of change...

It's hard to believe that 2015 is already coming to an end.  This year has been one of the most challenging years I have faced because of all the change.  In the last year I have changed cities, changed jobs, and changed as a person.  Change is really scary because were leaving a story that has already been written to a story that has yet to be told.  This year was to start of that story for me.

The beginning of 2015 caused me great remorse.  I was leaving some very special people that I've met over the last nine years.  People that have watched me grow.  People that have watched me succeed.  People that have watched me learn from my mistakes.  People that made me feel loved.  I still remember in particular having to say goodbye to my awesome team that I had the privilege of building and accomplishing great things.  I still have vivid memories of B and I hugging in tears as he was telling me, "stay stubborn brother".  B is somebody that has seen me and my best and worst times and that help support me to be where I am today.  I remember closing the door of our house for the last time in Waterloo before we headed to Toronto.  That door closing was symbolic.

The year also started with great frustration and struggle.  I had to hire new PSW's and have strange people responsible for helping me with my morning routine (shave, shower, dress, etc.).  Hiring one PSW when you have a group of solid ones is somewhat challenging… Hiring a PSW without a base is extremely scary.  We have found one person… The rest have been horrifying experiences.  Hey, I still lived to tell my tail.

I cannot say enough about the support my wife is extended to me both emotionally and physically.  She is filled then to help me when these other PSW's have failed.  She was there to comfort me when I had 1 million things going on and struggles.  She is my everything.  She went through the same things I did… And she was able to get her designation and score a job.  I cannot think of any other person that I want beside me as we embrace life.

For the first time in my life I was able to commute to work completely on my own via the subway.  There is nothing more empowering than to be able to go where you want, when you want, and by your own power.  This new freedom has made a large city seems small.  This new freedom allowed me to go to baseball games to meet friends from Waterloo… In one case I walked to the stadium with a couple that had a daughter that was in a wheelchair.  As I shared with them my story they got all teared up and thanked me for giving them the inspiration that their daughter can still have an amazing life.

This new freedom was not my only life experience this year.  Kelly and I went on a vacation alone for the first time in ten years.  I cannot come at a better time as we were in the middle of all this change.  On this vacation I was able to walk barefoot in the sand for the very first time.  On this vacation, I was able to go snorkelling for the very first time.  On this vacation, I was able to meet some amazing people that have become great friends.  These people were the reason why Kelly and I were able to experience everything we did at the end of our vacation.

I continued the pursuit to helping out great causes this year.  I did my damnedest to raise awareness for the John McGivney Centre to help their preschool program stay open.  I was fortunate that my YouTube video went viral.

I was able to work with the company to help them make great strides towards agility.  I got to work face-to-face with a bunch of amazing people.  I have been able to assemble a fantastic team.  I have been able to form some fantastic relationships with these people outside of work.  A group of us went out for drinks one night that resulted in me having way too many shots… This combined with the lack of wheelchair cab's had these new people flagged down a delivery truck to bring us back home.

I was able to start swimming again.  My sister-in-law (who we've been able to build a closer relationship with) trained to me three times a week in the pool and at the gym.  Being in the water opens up even greater freedom.

This year filmmaker Edward Platero release the documentary about my life and doing the Terry Fox walk.  Watching myself in third person crossing the finish line was incredibly emotional for me.  Being in the moment I now realize how much of an achievement was at that moment.  Hearing all those amazing things from people that I care the world about in that documentary inspires me to keep going on.  The amount of emails I've gotten because of the documentary helps me appreciate the impact I have on others.

This is the story of my 5km walk I did in 2014 and growing up & living a full life with Cerebral Palsy. The story is told by my lifelong friend and brother, Edward Platero. I like to do the best I can today and hope to do even better tomorrow.

At the end of this year I was finally able to realize a goal that I've had for some time.  I was able to kick off my own consulting company (Dave Dame Inc.).  I was also able to speak at a couple conferences.

I learned a lot this year.  As every year, I had a lot of ups and downs.  I miss a lot of people dearly and I have had the opportunity to meet some new amazing people.  Kelly and I realized that Kitchener Waterloo will always be home for us.  We will be back there again someday.  KW is who we are.  Until then… The memories and experiences we gather until then will make our life amazing.  I am grateful to have the people, family, and amazing wife I have.

For 2016 I hope to experience many more things.  I hope to release a book that describes my challenges and tenacity of my life of being a professional with a disability and the parallel of the challenges and tenacity you need in creating high performing organizations.

The journey continues.

Looking back on the journey – one year later

Crossing the finish line (49 secss)

 

Today is the one-year anniversary of the 5 KM walk that I did to raise $30,000 for the Terry Fox foundation.  This was nearly a year and a half of preparation physically and mentally to accomplish this.  A year ago at this moment Alex was stretching me as I was hearing people starting to gather outside.  Ed Prichard was trying to keep me relaxed by being his usual humorous self.  My wife was right there with ready to support me every step as she has the last 14 years.  Alex and I spent two years training.  Our first goal was to shed 60 pounds.  Our second goal was to prepare for this event.  You build a close bond was somebody that you spend three nights a week training for over twenty-four months.

My adrenaline was flowing strong.  This challenge was not going to beat me.  This challenge was going to be a stepping stone for the next.

What made the walk so special was that I was able to reconnect with a lot of people that I have not had the chance to spend much time with for a while.  Individual lives take us in different directions and priorities.  This day allowed us to align our directions and priorities if only for a few hours.  The laughter and conversation help me forget the pain that I was going through each step of the way.

Completing the walk showed me and others that anything is possible with hard work and dedication.  Looking back it also taught me the importance of having a fantastic support system of my wife, friends, and family.  It is a moment I will always cherish.  Not only the training.  Not only the walk.  Not only crossing the finish line.  Not only experiencing this with friends and family.  Not only doing this step by step with my wife.  It's all of the above!

Since the event the journey has continued.  This last year the journey has brought me and my wife to a new city, new jobs, new opportunities, and new lives.  This has been an incredible struggle that exceeded the walk as it is pushed me personally and emotionally.  I felt incredibly vulnerable at times.  I second guessed my choice at times.  However, it's opened a world of new freedoms.  For the first time in my life I'm able to independently get around because of public transportation.  I'm able to go to and from work completely on my own.  I'm able to go meet clients without having to organize helpers to bring me.  I'm able to go meet friends for a drink or for dinner.  I'm able to run errands to help my wife.  This summer has made this huge city smaller.  (However, with the winter approaching it would dramatically impact my quality of life as I do not do well in harsh weather.  Having this new freedom makes me appreciate summer more… And despise winter more.)  

This year has also allowed me to walk barefoot in the sand for the first time.  To snorkel for the first time.  To enjoy places around the world with my wife.

This year has seen Alex move to a new city as well.  His family added a new baby.  Alex has changed careers.  His journey still continues. Although we are apart...our bond is forever.

This year I had to say goodbye to special people.  This year I got to reconnect with old friends.  This year I got to build closer friendships with friends.  This year I got to make new friends.  This year I've had the opportunity to build closer relationships with family.

The journey has taught me so much more than achieving a goal.  It has taught me The timportance of having fantastic people in your life.  I have been purposeful in keeping relationships over the last year.  I'm purposeful in telling them what they mean to me.  After the popularity of this walk I have realized the influence I have on others.  Be the person you want to be...live with mistakes not regret...struggle makes you stronger...

Luckily, Facebook memories and the amazing documentary that Edward Platero put together will always remind me of this special time.  I'm looking forward to having another compelling event to bring everyone together.  Life is a collection of these events.  The journey is not always easy… But it is definitely worth it.  What does next year have in store?  Stay tuned… Because the journey continues.

THE JOURNEY CONTINUES DOCUMENTARY

I was scared. At times I had self doubt. It was going to hurt. It was going to be a challenge. Cerebral Palsy was not going to stop me. Life is hard, but it's worth it.

This is the Documentary about my journey...not only to walk 5km...but my Journey through life. This touches on all aspects of my life to the big day. Growing up, finding 'The One' in my soul mate Kelly, my career side, and who I am as a person. My friend/brother - Edward Platero could not have told this story any better. I like to pride myself as someone who does not shed a tear...but I shed a few while watching this. I love my wife, friends, and my life. Thank you everyone.

My life has changed a lot in the last year...and it will continue to change...because The Journey Continues.

To Watch the video click here - https://youtu.be/zSpWIjYTFE8

A Complete Day

Today was a cool milestone for me. I travelled to the Rogers Centre completely on my own to meet a couple of good friends for a Jays game. I have *never* been there on my own. I got to the subway filled with discovery. When I got off the subway I saw a family with a girl in a power chair all dressed in Blue Jays gear.

I asked if I could follow them as I was new to the city and I was meeting up with a couple idiots that I call friends:) While travelling they were asking a bunch of questions as they seemed enthused on how independant I was. Their daughter was 15 attending special classesand was curious how I ended up in Toronto. I shared with them my story, growing up, my parents, University, getting married, professional career, etc.

 

When I got to the Rogers Center I thanked them so much for allowing me to follow them. They were both in tears and thanked me for giving them inspiration for their daughter. I take forgranted my life. I met up with friends for an awesome time, the jays won, I downed my citcris wine cooler like a boss, helped a family, and had a life moment of getting to a game all by myself.
Pretty amazing day.

What's Life Without Living?

Most people count you out when you are born  in the 70s with a perceived short life expectancy and physical limitations.  This motivates you to exceed those expectations.  My life was focused to being able to wake up another day, establishing myself professionally, and/or meeting the next goal or challenge I set for myself. Life was focused on proving them wrong.

I have fought hard to overcome daily pains and logistical challenges to continue to get up each day.  Pushing myself to achieve professional goals and helping enterprise organizations change to optimize delivering high value to customers and their market space. Putting in a ton of hours to exercise to get the most that I can from my body, being able to walk and be more mobile.  I put all this work in to have a life.  

However, I was not leaving anytime to use this life to live.  To live to experience new things.  To live for seeing and feeling things that I did not know even existed.

Life will happen, Living it has to be deliberate.

For the first time ever my bare feet felt the sand of the beech.  It was as if I was stepping on a fluffy cloud.  I have never felt such an unusual, awesome feeling before with my feet.  It was warm and the sand hugged my feet as I walked along the beach with my wife at my side.

 Virgin feet on sand

Virgin feet on sand

I snorkelled for the very first time and got to see the most beautiful tropical fish with vibrant colours that cannot be described.  The water was the most beautiful blue I have ever seen.  The fish swam all around me.  I felt such a freedom.  I did not have to fight gravity, I was simply free.  Like floating in a beautiful new world, so peaceful, so tranquil.

 Diving down to heaven.  Yes, those are SpiderMan water wings...don't judge....

Diving down to heaven.  Yes, those are SpiderMan water wings...don't judge....

My wife and I have worked very hard at being a couple, excelling at work, and doing a number of community activities supporting various causes.  Time was flying past us, before we knew it, 5 years had gone by since we last went away somewhere outside of Canada, ten years since we had went outside of Canada just the two of us.

This made me realize that I need to balance life with living.  I’m still going to push myself both personally and professionally, but I need to take the time and reap the benefits of life by living and experiencing these moments.  I need to take advantage of this while I’m blessed to have the mobility I do and my wife s able to join and assist me with us experiencing living.

Walking barefoot in the sand and snorkelling for the first time might not seem like a big deal to most, but for me it was something that I would have never dreamed of.  

 Thank you Fred...

Thank you Fred...

I’m always in awe of the awesomeness of people.  During our vacation we met awesome peeps that made the above experiences possible.  We always see on TV and read about the people that suck.  However, the people that go above & beyond are rarely mentioned or noted as the exception.  The last two years I have seen mostly the awesomeness of the human race, making the people that suck the exception.  

Continue to push yourself.  Continue to achieve.  Remember to live for the moment, live for the experience, live for the memories, live while you can enjoy the most...simply live!

Losing a close friend this year taught me that we all have a finite amount of time...living is more than putting in time.

The Journey Continues

Can't Stand the word "Can't"

The word "Can't"bothers me.  It strikes a nerve with me.  When I hear the word "Can't" I interpret that as someone is not going to try.  Can't is convenient.  Can't is crippling.  I hear they're not prepared to go through the struggle and effort.  I hear that someone is not willing to pick themselves up when they fall. 

My wife and I recently relocated to a new city which meant I had to hire a whole new support staff to help me in the mornings at 5 AM with my personal care (shaving, showering, and dressing).  This means I have to trust strangers to whom I have only just met with my life. I have to instruct them to help me get ready in the morning.  This puts me in a highly vulnerable situation.  One person that I hired (now fired) did not take the time to learn the specifics of my morning routine.  There is nothing medical about my morning routine, but it is highly detailed to ensure everything is just right for me to be independent through out the day.  This person almost caused me to fall in the shower a number of times.  I felt crippled for the first time in a long time.  I was frustrated.  Angry.  I am trying to get ready for my first day at my new job but not sure I will make it out of the bathtub..  Luckily, my wife jumped in to help me get ready so I can be at work at 7:30 AM.  When I get dressed, my clothes have to be lined up with such precision to allow me to go to the bathroom independently at work.  The margin of failure is only inches.  This is a routine that I've continually refined over my life to strive to get more independent to allow me to have a "normal" life.  My job of being Dave and managing my needs is a 24/7 job on top of my professional job.

I don’t share this with you to feel sorry for me.  I’m simply giving background to why I have no tolerance for the word can’t or cannot accept the excuse that something is too difficult to try.  If I did not do anything that was difficult, I would not even get out of bed in the morning.

Let “Can’t” be the start of the story, not the ending.  Let “Can’t” drive you, not constrain you.  To get something you've never had, you must do something you've never done.  You have to change.  You have to endure scars to achieve what seems impossible.  You have to struggle.  You have to be resilient.  Anything worth having is worth struggling for. Try. Fail. Try again.  Our journey will be made up of falling and picking ourselves up.

These are my scars to endure.  Scars serve as a reminder to the past, but it does not tell us about the future. Change is challenging, frustrating, and terrifying.  There is no growth without change.  The struggle has to be fought, because the journey has to continue.

Strong people cry too

I usually pride myself as someone that is strong and can hold their emotions in check.  The last few months have been pretty emotional for me.  There are people you meet in your life that touch your heart in ways you never forget.

In September I cried as I crossed the finish when I completed walking 5km.  18 months of training physically and mentally had helped me reach this goal and to honour Terry Fox by raising $30,000 for his foundation.

In October I cried as one of my close friends passed away.  Thinking back of all our special times we shared and realizing that we would not get the opportunity to add to those special times.

The last two weeks have had me pretty weepy.  I had to say goodbye to my trainer, Alex.  We spent the last 2 + years training for 3 hours a week.  We developed a close bond in working toward spreading 60 lbs and getting stronger then I have ever been.  As we did our final training session before Christmas we hugged and we both got misty eyes.

Yesterday I said goodbye to an amazing team that together we accomplished amazing things.  We spent the afternoon reflecting on all the accomplishments we made and what needed to be done in the next year. I had to pause a number of times to keep my composure as I spoke with them.   These are my brothers of way that I would go in any battle with them.  They were colleagues that became brothers.

Also, yesterday my sister sent me one of the most heart warming texts she has ever said to me. She congratulated me on moving to the big city for my new opportunity and how proud my mom was and how proud my dad would be,  It was very special to me.

Tonight, was definitely the hardest.  I said goodbye to B.  We both started crying as we had a long hug.  B started working with me as a goofy young punk kid 8 years ago.  He went to the beat of his own drum and did the silly things kids do.  Over the next 8 years I have seen this young punk grow into an amazing man, husband, and father.  Over the years he would provide me with such outstanding care that Iforgot that I had a disability whenever he was with me.  We would laugh, rip on each other, prank each other, and grow closer to one another,  We would share countless conversations and always be there for each other.  I would chirp on him like my little brother about going back to school, to put himself and his family first, and get him to set goals.  I did not do this to be a pain, but did this because I knew he had it in him.  Seeing this punk kid transform to be a man in front of my eyes makes me so proud.  I'm proud to be his older brother. I know one day we will look back on this moment and we will tease one another about the way we cried when we hugged...but I know we were fortunate to share this moment.

Although the frequency of the times we see each other will be less living 120km away from one another, we are all better people from sharing these moments. How great is it to achieve great things and develop such life long relationships. If none of us moved forward from our past we would have never met.  As our journeys continue we will experience new achievements and form new relationships...becoming who we were meant to become. We do not really say, 'goodbye', we say, 'see you later'.  We will experience new things that we will share with each other when we do talk again.  We will continue to be a support circle for one another to help one another.  

Our love continues. Our friendship continues. Our journey continues. 

These are tears of sadness and these are tears of joy.

Looking in the Mirror...

During this time of year it is normal to reflect back on the past.  I set some pretty ambitious goals for 2014.  I'm happy that I've been able to achieve most of the goals that I set.

This year has been a lot of ups and downs.  I have been able to accomplish things that did not seem possible and I lost a very special person in my life.  I am starting a new chapter in moving to Toronto and taking on an exciting new opportunity.  However, to do this my wife and I are moving away from a number of loved ones we have got close to over the last 9 years.

Looking back on everything I realize how lucky I am to have such an amazing life filled with family, friends, and other people that inspire me to embrace this awfully wonderful thing of life and enjoy it.

I wish I could go back in time and talk to the sixteen-year-old version of myself that would spend countless hours alone in his bedroom scared that he would not find that special woman, not be able to make it in the grown-up world, and to not know what kind of life he would have.  As a teenager I would even find myself in tears thinking the above-mentioned is not possible.  

 I am complete

I am complete

I wish I could go back and tell him that he is going to find a woman that will make him better than he could've ever imagined, that completes the holes that were left void, that is the reason why you wake up in the morning and is your best friend & lover (Giggity).

 Steps to Victory with Alex and Kelly

Steps to Victory with Alex and Kelly

 Sharing the moments with special friends

Sharing the moments with special friends

 Step by step

Step by step

I wish I could go back and tell him that you will meet the special person named Alex.  Together you will spend twenty months training to walk further and faster than you ever thought possible.  You will do the Terry Fox event that would raise over $30,000 for cancer.  This event would allow you to get closer to your dreams with each step.  This event would take place in front of all the special people in your life to share in this moment with you.  This event will help to define you and the next chapter of your life.  You will always remember the love you felt when you cross the finish line.  You will remember the lives you touched with your walk.  You will remember people`s own stories they shared.  You will remember the letters from students touching your heart.  You will remember.

 Victory...is forever

Victory...is forever

 Co-present with Scott

Co-present with Scott

I wish I could go back and tell him that he will have a career in which he works with incredibly bright and talented people in solving complex problems.  This career would allow him to help organizations exceed expectations.  This career would be his passion.  This career would give him the life his parents always dreamed of.  People will see you as a thought leader.

I wish I could go back and tell him to make sure you cherishes those moments with special loved ones.  These moments will not be forever.  You need to love and appreciate them for everything .  You need to be happy that you got to share time with them, even if they have to leave this world early.  You need to appreciate family, friends, and loved ones each time you see them as if it was the last time ever.  To remember to keep the journey continuing even when there journey on earth is no longer.

I wish I could go back and tell him that despite the ups and downs… You are in for a hell of a ride!

/TheJourneyContinues


Goodbye Waterloo...thank you for the memories

Kelly and I are moving to Toronto on January 3rd to start our next chapter.  I accepted a new job.

Kelly and I moved to Waterloo during our first year of marriage.  To move away from the area of where we were born, move away from family & friends, and move away from the known, would either break us apart or bring us even closer together.  After 10 years I'm glad it's been the latter.We will continue to try new things and experience life.  There is no other person that I want to share this journey with.

We only knew a couple close friends when we first moved here.  Over the 9 years we made some amazing friends that will continue for a life time.

We are moving for very intrinsic reasons.  Professionally, the Toronto area provides me a rich area for me to continue to grow in my field.  Kelly has seen numerous finance opportunities to continue to grow in her space.  It provides more independence to travel to places within Toronto.  Kelly is always the sole driver and we can never bring my power chair.  We will get to experience this new lively city together...without Kelly needing to be the chauffeur in the car and with pushing my portable chair.    This move brings us closer to family. I don't think we need to elaborate on what this means.

The last 3 months have been a whirlwind for us.  The achievement of walking the 5km relit my flame to realizing anything is possible.  Losing a close friend reminded us that life is short.  Life needs purpose, life needs to be lived.  Kelly being end dated to her job made timing for such a change opportunistic.  She has been the 'rock' as I even was approaching this with hesitance. 

Kelly and I appreciate how much Waterloo has embraced us.  This community is allowed us to grow personally and professionally.  The friendships we had grew deeper plus it gave us a bunch of new friends that we will have for a lifetime.Today, the world is a smaller place.  Social media has allowed us to keep connected with people no matter the geography.  Don't worry, we plan to visit Waterloo often.  

Live life.  Love those around you.  Take chances.  Continue to grow.

Kelly and I look forward to this new chapter.

The journey continues…


I'm not brave, I just keep trying

A lot of people approached me recently congratulating me on being brave.  Also, a number of people asked me how I became so brave to challenge myself and put myself out there.  I don't think I woke up one day and was instantly brave.  Like everyone, I have fears, anxieties, and insecurities.

I believe what encouraged me to face these things is to deal with them more frequently.  I would face my fears, anxieties, and insecurities, slowly pushing myself to achieving things that previously scared me.  In doing scary things often, you get better at dealing with failure.  The more you deal with making mistakes or not achieving something, the better you can recover from it.  Doing this frequently makes this uncomfortable feeling your new normal.  This is training your brain to live in this uncomfortable place.  You're conditioning your emotions to deal with setbacks.  You're conditioning yourself to get back up and show resilience.  The more you do something the easier it gets.  Using this structure/framework  allows me to deal with the challenges and builds courage.  The more accomplishments you've achieved (whether it's from a number of trial and errors or if you get it the first time) keeps moving you forward.

I also give a little credit of being stubborn to overcoming fear.   I tend to want to face what people say is impossible, or unrealistic, as a challenge to overcome.  Every great success story began with the notion of impossible or unrealistic… I like to fill in the rest of the story between the start and finish.  It's not easy.  It's very frustrating.  It's really hard work.  It's incredibly rewarding.

The last thing you want in life is to live with regret.  Making mistakes gives you a chance to learn from them. If the number of missed opportunities pile up, it will give you a worse feeling than you would have ever experienced from being uncomfortable and recovering from failure.

 

 

Having a support structure around you to continue to support, inspire, console, and challenge you is essential.    The power of your inner circle can either break you or encourage you… find your supportive circle.

It's very easy to point fault at someone or not to believe… If we want others to achieve success from being uncomfortable we have to support and encourage them. 

Life is short.  Life is a gift.  Life is unfair.  Life is hard.  Life is awesome.  If being uncomfortable makes you live it to the fullest… Why would you ever want to be comfortable?

This Is My Friend Razzy

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The year was 1993. My parents just dropped me off for my first semester in residence at the University of Waterloo.  It was the January semester.  I had never felt so alone.  There was a knock on the door and in came this guy in a power chair with a helper.  He was carrying beers on his lap.  He introduced himself as Jeff Rasmussen… But he said, "People call me Razzy."  In sharing a beer with my new friend he began to tell me that the residence was divided in two: people born with a disability and people who acquired a disability via accident.  Jeff and I felt being born with a disability was the blue blood of disabled royalty.  This is true.  Little did I know at the time this was going to be someone that I would spend the next twenty-one years graduating, entering the workforce together, travelling together, each finding our soul mates, playing practical jokes on people, and becoming close friends.

This Is My Friend Razzy.

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Razzy and I were neighbours the first couple years of university.  Having thin walls between the rooms and big stereo systems was a bad combination.  I could always count on being woken up to thunderstruck blaring from his room at 7am after a night of partying.  To this day the words Thunder… Thunder… Thunder still haunt me.  I am still Thunderstruck.

 

 

 

This Is My Friend Razzy.

Razzy was really studious spending hours doing math homework.  He would still find time to participate in Sega hockey tournaments.  Every time we would beat the able-bodied people on our residents floor… Razzy would point out that they got beat by two gimps.

This Is My Friend Razzy.

When my dad passed away Jeff reached out to me.  He consoled me from far away and let me know that I had to keep moving forward because that's what my dad would want.  Razzy admittedly  didn't know what to say, but he always offered to listen.

This Is My Friend Razzy.

When razzy would call me at work he loved to be put through reception and leave the message, "Hi, this is Jeff Rasmussen from Revenue Canada and I need to get a hold of David Dame urgently to discuss his outstanding taxes". In a short time the rumours would fly around work.

This Is My Friend Razzy.

In our single days as we would approach girls at the bar.  All of us would do our best to introduce ourselves with our best opening line.  We all had lines except for Jibby...he just had to start playing his guitar (musicians had it easy). When these girls would ask what Jeff did for a living, he would reply, "I'm the tax man.  I'm the one who takes your grandmother's house."  He loved seeing their reaction…

One night at Phil's (a bar) Raz introduced me to a group of girls as 'His Retarded Friend, Davey".  Like a good wingman I rolled with it...

This Is My Friend Razzy.

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I had the privilege of travelling on trips with Jeff to Los Angeles and Chicago.  Anyone that has ever travelled with Jeff knows the detailed itinerary he puts together that must be followed.  He has the itinerary organized in fifteen minute chunks to maximize our vacation.  One night in Los Angeles we went bar hopping down the LA strip.  The rest of us consumed an extraordinary amount of alcohol while partying.  The next morning when the rest of us were struggling to get ready for the day to adhere to his itinerary, he laid into us.  Razzy roles in and says, "It stinks in here!  Someone open up the Jesus Christ-ing windows.  I'm leaving without you and by the time I get back your lazy asses better have this room cleaned up or I'm going to roll some ass when I return." You might not think someone in a wheelchair is intimidating… But he delivered that speech like a boss!

In the late 1990's you could view your hotel bill from the TV in your room.  Razzy would check the bill 6 times a day to make sure we did not order porn or room service.  During our vacation our hotel bill was the most watched program in Los Angeles!  

This Is My Friend Razzy.

I remember during our trip to Chicago when Jeff first started dating the lady that would eventually become his wife.  Jeff was unable to hold the phone receiver himself so he had to have his buddy hold the receiver while he talked with her in front of us in the hotel room.  I knew then that this relationship would progress from girlfriend to wife.  Hearing the conversation, "I love you more… No, I love you more".  Jeff had this conversation knowing fully that we would give him the gears the moment he hung up.  A man doesn't endure that kind of punishment unless he really loves the person he was talking too.

This Is My Friend Razzy.

We played countless pranks on our friends and personal support workers.  I can't share a lot of them on this post but refer to my blog post, "Disabled People Can Be Bastards".

This Is My Friend Razzy.

Jeff and I shared so many things in common.  Having disabilities we pushed through the normal school system, graduated from University, and made our way into the working world.  We overcame numerous obstacles.  We would both find our soulmates.  We would both make our parents proud to achieve things that others did not seem possible.  It's true that you don't know what you got until it's gone.  Our time with Jeff was too short.  Dr. Seuss said, "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened" I will try not to cry and smile.  I'm a better person for having Jeff in my life. I'm glad to have shared this journey with him.

This Is My Friend Razzy.  I miss you.