My Summer — Making the most of it!

As humans, we always sit back and ponder the things we wish we did. Take vacations, spend times with loved ones, take up a hobby, write, etc. I coach many professionals that are well accomplished and still miss those things. This summer, I motivated myself to focus on the things that were important to me. Connecting — with family, people that we consider family, and people who are not in my frequent contacts.

Many people reached out to me this summer, asking if everything was ok with my health and wellbeing because I have not been posting often. I am so flattered people care enough to check in. This summer was full of fun, accomplishments, and changes. I took the time to experience moments and create a platform that will provide the opportunity for more enlightenment.

First off — Fun:

Kelly and I traveled to Whitehorse, Yukon for my cousin Kathryne’s wedding. She married an amazing guy. As you get older, the time left to spend with family and loved ones gets shorter. It was so amazing to connect with cousins I have not seen in a long time. It was so special to spend those precious moments with them.

We also went to Niagara-on-the-Lake for a long weekend and spent time with our tribe. It is great to meet people who become your foundation and inspiration. Wine helps too!




Accomplishments:

I am doing the final round of editing of my book. Writing a book has always been a bucket list item for me. The book is about leadership and how leaders can develop the same skills to deal with their organization’s disability, via the same skills I have used to deal with my disability. It is a deeper dive into the TedTalk I did last year. I am hoping my book will inspire others to push through change and adversity.


Changes:

Kelly and I are moving back to Waterloo October 1st! I am being transferred to split time between the Waterloo office and Toronto. Waterloo has become Kelly’s and my adopted home. Waterloo is a place that I first discovered my independence, my identity, and who I wanted to be when I went to University. Kelly and I spent our first 10 years as a married couple in KW. It provided the foundation of our continued love for one another. It’s been a place of innovation, independence, and love. It is a place with my tribe that makes me whole. A journey worth continuing. Life is short, spending as much time in your happy place is important.

Our New House:

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Toronto was a great experience. The independence discovered here will motivate me to find ways of maintaining it and expanding it in Waterloo.

Without the care and support from Aimee, my experiences in Toronto would not have been possible. Aimee, I cannot thank you enough for providing me the care and support to allow me to experience all of the 416. In the darkest times, when my other support would quit without notice, not show up, drop me, or not do what was required, you were the light that kept me inspired to move forward. Thank you.

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Life does not promise us eternity, but if you make choices on what you want in life that makes you whole…your life will always be complete. Make your choices — no time to waste.

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Until next time…

Delivering the Least Scope

One common misconception of agile is that it simply allows you to get everything done faster. This is simply not true. Agile allows us to plan a much smaller scope of work, delivering iteratively and incrementally to deliver the least amount scope needed to solve the problem/capture the opportunity. The speed comes from only delivering what the customer needed. This is in contrast to how we used to scope a release when we delivered everything we thought they might want. 

Focus on being skeptical and delivering the minimal instead of trying to deliver everything in the release.

Focus on being skeptical and delivering the minimal instead of trying to deliver everything in the release.

Focus on being skeptical and delivering the minimal instead of trying to deliver everything in the release.


This is stakeholder debt. I define stakeholder debt as the difference between everything they scoped for the release subtract what the customer uses.

The only way we can do this is we relentlessly support the team to get to done in each review. You might not decide to release yet, but you could if you wanted to. Currently, you likely have a lot of overhead in getting a release out which makes it more expensive to release. Hence, you try to put as much in a release to justify the overhead. Invest in reducing this cost.

What can a leader do to support this?

Continuously remove/minimize organizational legacy processes. Chances are they have not been challenged or updated in years.

Invest in dev ops, tooling, and automation.

Ask what you can do to help them make done possibly. As a leader, when was the last time you asked what you could do/invest in doing their job better.

The purpose of modern product delivery is to go from vision, to value, to validation in the shortest time possible. This allows us to sense and respond to our understanding of customer and user behaviours. We need to prioritize metrics for learning. We need to make learning a first-class citizen.

How can you support this as a leader?

Create learning metrics, quantitative and qualitative.

Prioritize these metrics alongside financial.

Invest in innovation and research based on these.

Build enough, not everything. Challenge yourself to build the minimal to either meet the goal or maximize learning.

Every keystroke is precious for a leader with Cerebral Palsy so I will end here. Below is my recent Vlog that touches on some of these.

Lead how you would like to be led!

Learning has to be a first class citizen (1 minute, 50 seconds)

A common misconception about agile is that you get everything done faster. The speed comes from delivering less. By delivering the most important thing early and stop when you met the goal. This allows you to shift from defending the scope to being continuously skeptical if you want to invest more as you already met the goal.

Leadership for the Knowledge Work Era

In working in today’s knowledge work economy, it surprises me that many leaders still use traditional ways of leading their people. Leaders still put most of the focus on the work to be done instead of focusing on the people to create an environment where great work can be done. 

My suspicion it has to do with legacy industries and businesses. They still see work as straightforward and the leader has the most experience to break down and explain the work so many people can execute on it to finish it.

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In today's complex, rapidly changing landscape the team you build better be supported to rapidly learn and have an environment that fosters continual validated learning if they have any hope to survive. The team needs to be more knowledgeable than the leader in this new era. This is the complete reverse from the industrial era where managers were the most knowledgable. Furthermore, leaders need to continually foster and grow their people. Customers and technology are changing at an incredible speed. Not only in skill but more challenging opportunities. Don't worry about losing them, as they move on they serve as your ambassador and recruiter for their replacement.

Leaders that create a learning and courageous environment will have people with a variety of domain expertise greater than their own. Their job changes to inspiring people to go beyond their expectations and creating the safety and space for that learning to happen.

Having Cerebral Palsy I had to learn to give up control to move forward. Accepting to not having to know more than your team is giving up control.

In everything complex, it is all about balance. Focus on your people, but keep an eye on the objectives to ensure you are headed in the right direction.

Things you can do as a Leader:

Move from focusing on the work to focusing on growing the people to do great work.

Move from giving the solution to asking open questions to unleash possible solutions.

Move from having to know everything before allowing the team to move forward to setting guardrails to allow teams to innovate ahead of you know all the details to learn.

Lead how you would like to be led!

Typing is very challenging for me. In an attempt to share more I’m starting a Vlog of quick videos on #Leadership — Here is my first one on focusing on #Growth. Hope you enjoy. (2 mins)

Dave

www.davedame.com










A Look Back on 2018 and Thank You!

The year 2018 was about amplifying. Amplifying my message, thoughts, ideas, inspiration and passion. My energy and stamina are not what it once was. The journey ahead of me is smaller than the one behind me. I have been purposeful and deliberate about spending my time on things that would help me have a louder voice, align to a collective voice, for change and leadership. Unleashing the power of diversity and inclusion to deliver global products in a digitally connected world. I believe this has the potential to create a highly engaged workplace that can keep up with the rate of change of our ever growing fickle customer base. Teaching companies the importance of innovation and the courage to disrupt themselves before someone else does.

It starts and ends with people. You do not change an organization, people change the organization. They are the spark, energy, healthy scepticism, creative, forward-thinking drivers of these organizations. I love people — employees — customers — people. I want to talk with all of them, but only have a finite time to do this. I did not waste time in 2018.

This year Scotiabank and Scrum.org have given me a platform for teaching over 500+ people in Product Ownership, Leadership, and Scrum (a catalyst for change). I cherish spending each moment with them. Hearing their struggles, successes, and learnings. Creating agents of change. When they leave the class — the people they will inspire when they return to their job. I have got to see people change career paths as they got a sense of who they wanted to be in that moment. I thank them for inspiring me. I thank my awesome team of Sandra, Matt, and Aaron. 

Scotiabank and Scrum.org enabled me to travel to Boston and work with Joshua Seiden, Erik Weber, and Gary Pedretti to collaborate on a future course designed specifically how to learn customers, opportunities, and validate them in 30 days or less. I thank Scotiabank and Scrum.org.

Early this year I was invited to be on the Digital Advisory Panel for Waterfront Toronto to help voice digital usage, governance, and innovative opportunities to better serve people in communities. The panel is comprised of super smart experts, academia, legal, and business. Fortunately for me, I get to be the dumbest person in the room to be able to learn, challenge, and ensure we are serving a greater cause. I could not ask to work with two more amazing people then Kristina Verner and Alaina Aston. These ladies help inspire, motivate me, to do more to better everyone. I am grateful to all of them.

I was able to achieve a major bucket list item in 2018. I was selected to deliver a Ted Talk in May. After the initial selection, I was super excited, followed by the anxiety of now what do I talk about?. 


My parents worked so hard to allow me to have a voice in a world that was not ready to listen. I wanted to talk about agile, leadership, and courage. Courage to be the change. Sep Pashang was a huge champion and supporter of what I had to say. I cannot thank him for his continued campaigning of why I had to be on stage to be he heard. Marisa Tam was an incredible teacher and provided tools for me to be the best speaker I could hope for. Lastly, I cannot thank Aaron Sampson for all of the hours we spent before work, after work, and weekends creating a compelling talk that got an audience of 1700 people to stand from a speaker who struggles to stand himself. Aaron is my true example of how a follower can become a leader. I hired and mentored Aaron for the last four years…he is the Leader that I want to report to. The student became the teacher, friend, and brother. My love for you is undaunting and real. Thank you for continuing to remind me that my view of the world and life need to be heard.

I spoke at numerous conferences on topics on Product Ownership, Agile in Marketing, and Agile and Inclusion (Agile is a Catalyst for change, Inclusion is ensuring we bring everyone along with the change).

In 2018 I Had the most thought-provoking, reflective interview I have ever experienced in my life. It did a great job in helping me articulate me. Gregory Boyd was amazing to allow me to realize that the passion of what I do is a reflection of who I am.

Man on the move | Scotiabank Perspectives
Here are three things you need to know about Dave Dame:He has Cerebral Palsy, so he uses a wheelchair to move…perspectives.scotiabank.com

This year would not have been possible without my never-ending support of my wife, Kelly, my tribe, family, and all my friends past and present, near and far, and the audience that inspires me to do more.

Me and Kelly

Me and Kelly

What do I have planned for 2019? I want to write a book. The book will be everything not included in my Ted Talk and Scotiabank interview. I will also be keynoting the Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Townhall, keynoting the Cerebral Palsy Gala in my hometown in Windsor, and hopefully numerous other speaking engagements that allow me to share my passions and experiences. More teaching classes. More social media, not for vanity, but to share…and hopefully inspire.

Looking forward to struggling, growing, experiencing, sharing and living in 2019!

www.DaveDame.com

Holidays, Reflection and aging with Cerebral Palsy

This Christmas was the usual good things.  Go home, visit family and friends, reflect and think about the future.

I visited my mom every morning during my short visit.  My mom suffers from dementia.  She has good days and bad days.  Mornings seem better.  Sometimes she remembers everything, sometimes very little.  This breaks my heart. A woman who has accomplished and sacrificed so much for her family cannot truly see how they impacted my world.  My cerebral palsy has taken away some things, but not a true sense of who I am, which dementia has stolen from my mom.

Me and mom

Me and mom

How do you thank someone, who with my father, helped me have all the true great things in life?  Love, friends, and a fulfilling purpose.  How do I thank my mom that someday I would find ones who love me for who I am? That those bullies will become the smaller number of people compared to friends who become family?  How do I explain that your child who struggles to stand enabled 1700 people at TEDxToronto to stand up to applaud a message on change and leadership?  How do I think her for being stubborn, something I am proud to be accused of?  Oh well, I guess I will sit across the room with her and my wife…spending quiet time to allow her to share the moment.

The younger version of myself would visit everyone under the sun in the tight window that I visit home for the holidays.  Rushing from home to home, squeezing one hour here and there.  As I age with Cerebral Palsy, I do not have the strength, nor stamina.  I try my best to see those that I can and am saddened for those I cannot visit. Each visit matters.  Christmas has grown from valuing getting Christmas gifts to spending those moments with friends; remembering those memories that brought you together, and the bond that keeps you struggling to find those rare moments to reconnect.

As you get older you value the impact you can cause for others as the real gift of life.  This year we were able to give a thoughtful gift to cause my in-laws to tear up and cry.  The real meaning of Christmas.  Sadly, because of my Cerebral Palsy, I could not see this reaction.  The TV we all went in to get them was too big to put under the tree so we had it in the basement, where it would be setup.  This was absolutely no ones fault at all.  I married into a very inclusive family that thoughtfully includes me in everything.  However, I cannot help think of the parallel of how my mom’s dementia that steals her of memories that my Cerebral Palsy might be starting to take away sharing new memories.

Although I have to be selective with my finite energy, last night I got to share precious time with people who have become my family.  Participating in conversations and just listening taking in the moments of how their lives were going to change in this new year.  I got to share this with my wife.  Being in the room listening, laughing, and sharing.  I love sharing my life with them. Although I sometimes can’t talk loud enough, taking in the moment is everything. Maybe this is how my mom feels during my visit with her. I look forward to making new memories with them.

Memories are the chapters of the book of our lives.  I am so open on social media to share, influence, and inspire others.  I hope to one day be able to download all of it so I have something to re-experience if my memories are lost.

Merry Christmas - with love,

Dave

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.

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.

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.

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.

It was the best of times and the worst of times - Davey's Double Down Review

Please click here for background music while you read this. The song has a double meaning... When I saw the new double down sandwich commercial from KFC I remember thinking that this could be the greatest innovation to man kind since the internet.

Two chicken fillets with bacon and two slices of Monterey cheese and the colonel's special sauce...I had to try this bad boy myself.

Tonight...was the night:

Pre-Game:

I didn't know whether I wanted to just stare and admire it's greatness or to eat it.  Of course...I decided to take a taste of heaven...

Double Down

Double Down

 

 

 

 

 

 

Game Time:

Oh my god...my taste buds were rockin! There was a party in my mouth and I hope every one could come.  The chicken crisp yet moist...the bacon coating each bite...the cheese the icing on this masterpiece.  The sauce was heavenly...if Jesus perspired, his sweat would be this sauce.

IMG_0013
IMG_0013
Every bite better than the last!
Every bite better than the last!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Post Game:

About 20 minutes after my face began to sweat. It was like I wiped my face with the inside of a ruffle bag.  It ran through my colon like a bowling ball.

About an hour later my male ovaries began to throb.  It's times like this that I'm grateful that I can't wipe my own @$$.

Will I ever have one again?...some day. 8/10

Until next time...

Disabled Etiquette?

Yesterday I was in a meeting at work talking about 508 compliance. During the talk I was struggling to think of what the current politically correct term for physically disabled as I was pretty confident it was not 'gimp' or 'crip'. In my research for the new politically correct term, I came across this ridiculous article:

Mobility: http://www.disabilityliving.ca/people-with-disabilities-mobility-disability-communication/

Here is what they list as 'disabled 'etiquette:

1. Do not lean on someone’s wheelchair – remember, “Wheelchairs are an extension of personal space.”

Funny, so disabled guys don't mind a stripper on their lap but touching their wheelchair is off limits?

2. Do not help someone (for example, help maneuver a wheelchair) until you have first asked; do not just assume he or she needs your help.

Disabled etiquette calls for people to receive permission to help? Should we not be happy that someone wants to help?

3. “Don’t patronize people who use wheelchairs by patting them on the head. Reserve this sign of affection for children.”

So it's not ok to rub a disabled person but it's ok to be a pedophile? In my example for #1, disabled guys never minded being rubbed at a strip club.

4. If you are speaking to someone in a wheelchair for a considerable amount of time, get down on his or her eye level – this will help both of you avoid a sore neck later.

Able bodied people should drop to their knees for us? One word - "Giggity!"

5. If someone using a wheelchair asks you for directions, think ahead of any obstacles that may present themselves (weather, distance, hills, curbs, etc).

Maybe we should ask that the person providing directions lay a trail of breadcrumbs for the disabled person to follow... Really? Should we not be happy that they are providing directions? It's hard for non-disabled people to recognize the obstacles until they have spent a decent amount of time around a disabled person.

6. “Treat adults as adults. Call a person by his or her first name only when you extend this familiarity to everyone present.”

What? I don't even understand this one. When my friends introduce me to others as an idiot it's well deserved. I work hard at it.

7. Did you know that some individuals having a mobility-related disability use their arms to balance themselves? Keep this in mind when considering physical contact.

If your not sure...see if they are wearing shoes on their hands first.

8. Don’t set your personal belongings on the desktop attached to someone’s wheelchair.

If you have a desktop attached to your chair and don't demonstrate your upset when someone places items on you...your not a disabled person...your a book shelf.

9. “Keep the ramps and wheelchair-accessible doors to your building unlocked and unblocked.”

Is this etiquette or something that should just be done?

10. When possible, place things within the reach of the individual having the mobility-related disability.

Finnally, one etiquette statement I can appreciate. It took years for my wife to remember to leave the remote in my reach. I can't help to think this was done on purpose to avoid watching sports.

I'm not saying society is perfect in their attitudes toward people with disabilities. However, I don't believe we need our own etiquette category any more than any other minority.

Life is short. We can spend our time being upset that their are ignorant people out their or we can invest the time in appreciating all the great people out there that see us as no different.

This is an unfair and awesome world...Embrace it.

Until next time...

 

The Rolling Business Traveler

A number of my Facebook friends wanted the story behind my statuses on Friday...so here it is... I recently flew to Minnesota for work.  It was really beneficial to have face to face strategic talks with my colleagues.  It also gave me the opportunity to spend time with my new boss as he works remotely most of the time.

I have flown on numerous occasions in the post 9/11 era with my power wheelchair for both business & pleasure.  For the most part everything usually runs smoothly...except this time.

I was at the airport in Minnesota eager to fly back home.  Usually when I go through security they wave a wand over me, give me a quick pat down, take a quick look around my chair and send me on my way.  However, this time was way different.  The security dude walked over to me and asked if I was ready.  I acknowledged - yes. He began rubbing me all over...which even made me feel dirty. He pulled me forward and started feeling my butt.  I now have a greater understanding of how Kermit the Frog felt each time Jim Henson put his hand inside him.  If the security dude kept his hand there any longer he would have had me singing, "The Rainbow Connection".

He started patting my crotch area.  Being away from my wife all week this dude was a few rubs away from popping the cork. He then asked me to take off my belt.  I told him that I couldn't but my helper would be able to.  Since my helper was already 'cleared' from security he's not allowed to touch me until I'm clear.  Since the security dude already had gotten to know me intimately I agreed to let him do it.  After the waist check and a mirror ran under my chair I was good to go.  Surprisingly he never gave me his number after that.

After checking in for the flight I learn that the flight has been delayed 2 hours.  I was tempted to go back to security to see what I get on the second date.

After all this I finally get to board the plane.  In two + hours I would get to see my wife.

After landing in Toronto I waited 40 minutes for the airport staff to bring a chair up for me to exit the plane.  The lady said that they were still looking for my power wheelchair.  After 30 more minutes she asked me if I could just come back tomorrow for it.  Ok, I'll put off being disabled until it's convenient for you to locate my power chair.  Shortly after the comment my chair arrived all in pieces.  Luckily my helper put it all back together again.  However, it had a lot of excessive scratches on it.  I began driving it and the right tire was making a noise.

I decided to make a claim.  The customer service guy said that they do not grant claims for superficial damages like excessive scratches.

Now, my power chair does not define me, but it is a part of me.  I'm in it from 7:30am - 5pm and present to colleagues and customers from my chair.  So when my chair is banged up it takes away from my normal good looking appearance.  No one would go to work everyday with torn cloths or present in a torn suit...so how is this superficial?  After I explained this to the customer support dude he became embarrassed.  He approved the claim now I have to organize getting it fixed with their supplier.

At the end of the day it took me 12 hours to fly back home which should have taken 4 hours.  My wife was waiting for me with open arms.  While in Minnesota I spent a total of 8 hours waiting for 15 minute wheelchair cab rides from the hotel to the Minnesota office.  Despite this I love what I do.  I would not trade it for anything.

Until next time...

A Christmas Story

It's that time of the year again when we celebrate the holidays.  It's funny how the holidays remind us of special memories from our childhood.  Playing, school pageants, and Santa. Playing in the snow was not as exciting for me as it was other kids.  Snow and disabled people don't make a great combination.  Still to this day I'm still puzzled how R2D2, the galactic cripple,  moved with such ease around the planet Hoth. My mom would spend an hour bundling me up in a snow suit and put mittens on my hands to go outside to play.  You have all seen my hands, putting mittens on me is as challenging as solving a Rubik's Cube.

Let me take a moment to list the many ways that I could play in the snow:

  1. Make snow angels

That's it. 1 hour to dress. 2 hours of play.  A lot of dumb ass snow angles in the front yard.

When I was young I attended a school with just disabled people.  Like regular schools, they too would have an annual Christmas show.  The major difference was that most of the cast was non-verbal.  It was difficult to tell whether they were singing jingle bells, frosty the snowman, or silent night...it all sounded the same!  Being that I was in the front my back was soaked from their spit.  Their Christmas play was more like an nativity set with Joseph wearing a hockey helmet, given that no one could actually move around on stage.

I remember one time that my mom brought me to sit on Santa's knee so I could tell him what I wanted for Christmas.  Sitting on his knee, Santa asks, "David, Do you want Santa to bring you a new pair of legs for Christmas?"

First off, why is Santa talking in 3rd person?

Second, isn't Santa supposed to listen to what I want instead of drawing attention to me being disabled?

Me and Santa

Third, why do I smell Scotch?

I replied, "The Millennium Falcon, page 345 in the Christmas wish book, with batteries!"

Christmas Eve always brought great excitement...Santa was coming to bring presents!  Would I get the Millennium Falcon or the 'Race 'n Chase' race track?   I remember trying to pretend to be sleeping one Christmas Eve as 'Santa' was attempting to put together (what I would come to find out) a race track.  The cusses of "God D***t, Stupid piece of sh!t," filled the air.  I remember thinking to myself, "Santa has quite a potty mouth for a jolly man".

Me and my race track

We all have special childhood memories of Christmas.  As adults we get to relive the magic of Christmas through little ones.  Instead of receiving - we give.  We give memories for the next generation.

Have a great Christmas everyone!

Until next time...