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Stu-Pendous Blog - Learning and Growing

These are the thoughts of speaker, author and camp director Stu Saunders.
For Stu’s original blog, you may still access his archives here.

  • The Yo-YO

    Dec 16, 2011

    This summer I took my family to a beautiful cottage in Northern Quebec. We were right on the lake, the view was breath taking. I figured we would swim, play games, do a little boating maybe explore the area through a few hikes. We did do all this, but it wasn’t the highlight for my 11 year old son.

    On the second day I went into the small town and picked him up a Yo-Yo. It’s a toy developed more then 400 years ago. Hasn’t really changed in 4 centuries. Well, for Matthew, that was it. He didn’t stop working on it, making up tricks and best of all putting on shows synchronized to music. It was one of the high points for all of us. Every day there was something new to see!

    I found the Yo-Yo the other day and it it made me think, aren’t our lives a lot like Yo-Yo’s. I mean there are ups and downs and sometimes we have to do tricks to get through. At first glance we all think that playing with a Yo-Yo is easy. I mean it looks that way… from a distance. The reality is, it’s pretty difficult. Especially to truly master it. Here’s the thing, sometimes you flick the toy down and it get’s stuck, it won’t come back up. You may try and spin it back but it just sits there, staring at you. almost laughing. You think “I can’t even make a silly toy come back to me. Many of us will put it down and walk away. Call it a dumb toy or say “I can’t do it” and chalk it up to a waste of time. It’s like the problems and challenges we face in life. When we get hit with a down cycle many of us just walk away and give up, or what’s worse we slip into anger and depression.

    Then there others who will pick the yo-yo back up and re-wrap the string and try again. A successful and happy life is about picking the yo-yo back up and re-wrapping the string. Trying again. There are some tricks like “walking the dog” that are easy and some like “the bell tower” that are really hard. You may not master them all. That’s ok. Don’t beat yourself up. You need to try, sometimes you will get really good at some and other times you just need to forget the ones that frustrate you (friends, habits, relationships, negative people) and try something new. You have to understand that sometimes “things” may look easy and when you try them they ARE hard or not for you. That’s cool. That’s part of the learning process. It doesn’t mean you or your life should be considered a failure.

    Understand this, the Yo-Yo wants you to play with it. It wants to be flipped through the air, spun fast and held in the palm of your hand. Equally, life wants you to succeed. Life though, needs as much practice as the Yo-Yo. There are only a few Yo-Yo masters out there. They can’t do all the tricks but they can do a few really, really well. It wasn’t a quick thing, it took time and tons of failures. Treat life like that. Don’t give up, try! Make sure though you have the wisdom to know when to try the next trick.


    Posted by Stu Saunders in Leadership Family Life Learning and Growing Motivation on Dec 16, 2011 at 1:17 pm | Permanent Link | Comments (0)

  • TSN turning point

    Oct 24, 2011

    Today well lived
    Makes every yesterday
    A dream of happiness
    And every tomorrow
    A vision of hope.

    Sanskrit Poem

    My dad passed away a few weeks ago, he was 72. On the 22nd of October we held a memorial service to honour his life. It was nice. Many of his friends spoke and I met some nice people and re-aquainted my self with some family and friends I had not seen in years. They promised to stay in contact.

    My brother passed away 9 months ago, he was 46. On the 22nd of October we thought about the 46th birthday he would of celebrated that day. I heard from a few people saying they were thinking of our family. It was nice. First time I had heard from many of them since his service.

    I have a dear friend who has been battling cancer for about 4 years and doing everything in her power to win. She lives with passion, zest and love. All the time. She inspires me.

    What is it about death that slaps the living in the face? Is it the sudden reality of the fragility of life? Is it the idea of losing something and not getting it back? Once we embrace our mortality we begin to live. Why do we wait? Why don’t we live right now? Push ourselves to experience the awesome possibilities of life.

    Here’s what I get frustrated about in death. The hollow promises we make each other and ourselves at the time when someone we love dies. “I will keep in contact with all of you.”, “I will call you next week!”, “Let’s stop meeting like this.”, “I will love my kids a little more!”. “Wow, makes you appreciate life!”. Soon after though we rejoin the herd and shuffle along with nothing more than good intentions and unfulfilled promises.

    If death and sickness have taught me anything is that it’s the universes way of reminding us that life is what we make of it. If you don’t love your job, change it. If you love someone tell them. If you need to make new friends, make them. If you are unhealthy, get healthy. If you smoke, quit. If you are carrying around a grudge or anger, let it go. If you want to laugh more, smile first.

    Make this day the day you decide to be different. To hug, to kiss, to laugh, to run, to write, to say thank you, to play. To be! Make this day the turning point that becomes the anniversary of change a year from now. You have the ability, you have the tools. YOU are in charge. 

    “A man who won’t die for something is not fit to live.” - MLK


    Posted by Stu Saunders in Leadership Family Life Learning and Growing on Oct 24, 2011 at 12:53 pm | Permanent Link | Comments (4)

  • It’s not that bad…

    Sep 24, 2011

    Sitting in the Saskatoon International Airport. My flight is scheduled to leave leave at 6:35 and get me home and in bed at around 11:30. Looking forward to being in my own bed for a brief break before flying to Newfoundland on Sunday morning.

    Problem is, it’s now 11:05 and I am still sitting in the waiting room at the Saskatoon Airport. We haven’t left. You see there is a problem with engine number two. They tried for two hours while we sat on the plane to fix it or reset it or something. It didn’t work. They asked us to leave the plane and come inside the terminal and sit and wait. Wait for something. A fixed engine, a new plane or maybe a Luck Dragon to fly us home.

    Many of the passengers are mad, many visibly frustrated. I understand. Plans are changed now for many. People they were going to meet, connecting flights, weddings to get to, kids to hug and games to play. We all have “things” to do. Some of us, like me just want to climb in my bed for a few hours. So while I understand the frustration I don’t get the anger.

    I am confident that Air Canada doesn’t want to anger its customers. They want to please their passengers, they want them to come back and book again. More importantly, they want them to be safe. How much would these passengers lives be changed had something been over-looked and what happened in Russia happened to us. The games, weddings, connecting flights, meetings wouldn’t matter anymore.

    So, I am now sitting in a comfy chair watching a CFL football game (only in Saskatchewan, go Riders) and typing on my MacBook using the airports free internet. It’s not that bad.

    Be happy, look at the big picture. Anger doesn’t build you up it tears you and those around you down.

    “Don’t sweat the small stuff and it’s all small stuff” - Richard Carlson


    Posted by Stu Saunders in Leadership Learning and Growing Motivation on Sep 24, 2011 at 1:00 am | Permanent Link | Comments (1)

  • Time to parent…

    Aug 19, 2011

    Driving home yesterday from a speech in Walled Lake, Michigan I heard a commercial for “Winners”. I was shocked and saddened. There was a young girl yelling at her mom because she didn’t purchase her the right clothes. She said, “Don’t you know mom, what I wear to school will make or break me!” The announcer then said, “Get your children what they want!”

    Really?

    People try and buy their children’s love, they want to be their kids buddies, they buy them all the name brands and designer labels. Some parents dress their little girls (6 year olds) in tops that say “Dangerous Devil”, “My mom is naughty!”, “I get what I want because I am cute”. These are shirts I actually saw at 12 Oaks Mall in Michigan yesterday. I even saw a baby shirt that said, “I’m living proof my mom is easy” 

    They put their 12 year olds in short, shorts and wonder why at 16 their boys have little respect for women or for that matter their girls for themselves. We can’t expect our children to grow up until we as parents grow up and become adults and start parenting.

    In twenty years of running a summer camp I know a few things. One, your child can survive and actually will enjoy being unplugged. Two, for sure your children are sponges. You get drunk in front of them, they will be more apt to get drunk, smoke drugs or do hard drugs they will too. As a parent you have a responsibility to teach and positively influence your children and your neighbours. Your actions, language and comments are being sucked in by them.

    The biggest challenge with this generation, the children, is the last one is so not ready to shape today’s. PLEASE be a parent. Love your children, they actually want to spend time with you. Remember when going out for dinner was special? They will love board games if we choose to be engaged with them. It’s more valuable than any app or video game.

    Let them Play outside (running on the Wii Fit is not playing outside). Allow them to get their designer clothes really dirty and embrace every single cut, bruise and scrape. You did and you survived. Stop taking their childhood away. They aren’t your BFF’s they are your opportunity to create a better tomorrow. Love them, teach them and spend time with them. They don’t have to be cool like you were or you were not. They really just want to be your child and be happy.

    I am not perfect, I am always working at being a better dad. I know I can do more and have made BIG steps to be more “there” for my three amazing kids. Like any work of art it takes time and effort. Shouldn’t we treat our children as if they were the most beautiful creations on the planet? To shape and colour in with the most vibrant of colours available.

    Something to think about.


    Posted by Stu Saunders in Leadership Family Life Learning and Growing on Aug 19, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Permanent Link | Comments (3)

  • Christmas Morning

    May 7, 2011

    One of my most vivid memories of being a child was Christmas eve when I was 6. My brother, whom I looked up to (because he was taller), was in a very excited mood. Santa would soon be here. He and I ran up and down the hallway much to my parents chagrin. We yelled, laughed, teased and played. I remember being absolutely exhausted. My favourite moment of that night was when Craig disappeared into the bathroom and returned moments later with his pyjama pants pulled low and his oversized pyjama top pulled lower to meet his bottoms. It made him look like he had short little legs and we all laughed. I of course, immediately copied him. Both of us running all over the house screaming “short legs, short legs, I’ve got short legs!”. My sides ached of laughter.

    That night was one of my favourite memories of childhood. It didn’t cost anything and it wasn’t pre-planned. It just happened. There is a great saying that goes something like; “The best moments in life tend to happen when there are no camera’s around.” I am not sure who said that. Maybe it was my mom or dad, maybe it was Martin Luther King or Tony Robbins. It doesn’t matter who because it does hold some much truth.

    I have been really hung up lately on the idea of creating memories and moments. The stuff you do at 16 will be the stuff you tell friends, family and kids about at 35. A picture can show the event but your words and description will give it a pulse. The amazing thing about your memories are they are yours. You have the creative license to tell the story. The mountain of snow you scaled at recess that was 30 feet high. The first kiss that was under the stars, near the water on a dock with a warm breeze soothing your sun drenched skin. The advise you got from a teacher that steered you in a direction you never expected. The random road trip that created small moments that become epic over time. There is no App, no video game or virtual experience that can be programmed for those morsels of childhood moments that become the feasts of the stories you will share with others.

    Unplug today, if the sun is shining, take off your shoes and crunch your toes in the cool spring grass, run, laugh, play. Create new moments. Be aware and store them to your rolodex of life. Life is beautiful.


    Posted by Stu Saunders in Leadership Family Life Learning and Growing on May 7, 2011 at 10:03 am | Permanent Link | Comments (5)

  • Up where we belong

    Mar 12, 2011

    “Up Where We Belong” is a song from the eighties. It’s sung by Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes. It was a pretty popular song in its time. I haven’t heard that song for a VERY long time. Today, while I was cleaning my little cabin in the woods it came on the Radio. I was instantly transported back in time. Back to 1989. This was the year I worked in Grand Bend (the first time), I was hired to be the DJ of Sanders on the Beach. At the time Sanders was the most popular bar. It had three patios, outdoor music, faced Lake Huron and had some of the best sunsets in the world. People would line up for hours, yes hours, on a long weekend to get in and pay a very inflated price for a drink. I was popular. Not because I was good looking or the life of the party, but because I was the DJ of the coolest bar in “the Bend”. I wasn’t a great DJ. There were far better. I was selected by my brother to be ‘the man’.

    In an instant this morning, when I heard this song I was whisked back to a very different time. A time of pure young fun, absolute immature stupidity, summer crushes and blanked out nights. I was 19, I was invincible. I went on to work three more summers in the Bend and I always had fun. They weren’t the best times, but they were moments etched into my memory. Moments of new friends and a popularity that I never experienced in my life prior to those summer days at the beach.

    I struggle with young people that take jobs that are less then what they want just because it’s “better money”. I am challenged by youth that rush through the days of unbridled possibility. Those days shaped me. They helped me solidify my understanding of right and wrong, maturity and immaturity.

    There should be a place in everyones life to play, to be stupid and to be young. That one song reminded me of that. At the end of each night in the “Sandbar”, our dance bar in the basement of Sanders, I would play that Joe Cocker song. The young love of the day would dance, kiss and a sense of calm would envelope me. Somehow I knew that these times were unique, they wouldn’t last, but they were special.

    I miss those days, I miss the clean whiteboard. No idea of what was to be written or drawn. Absolutely ignorant to the real struggles or triumphs that would face me over the next 20 years. Why? Because it didn’t matter.

    I was up where I belonged. I was the DJ.


    Posted by Stu Saunders in Family Life Learning and Growing Motivation on Mar 12, 2011 at 2:07 pm | Permanent Link | Comments (2)

  • More

    Jan 9, 2011

    So often in life we would like to have more. In fact, I believe that most people want more. The question is are you willing to make a change to get more?

    There is a fine line between wanting more then you currently have and loving what you already have more. What I mean is that you already have a lot. I assume that you, the reader of this blog are sitting in front of your own computer. That’s more then 85% of the world can do. You are probably in your own home, again more then many people. You may even be at your university, growing and becoming… well… MORE. This higher education opportunity is again more then many people dream of having.

    I once heard a speaker say that people in North America are always trying to win the lottery. Why? You probably already have. Your life, here in North America (specifically the US or Canada), is full of far MORE then most of the world. So grow, challenge yourself, be better. The reason? Because you can, you have the freedom to be, do and have MORE.

    Remember though, while on the journey of MORE, celebrate the “already have’s”, because life is really already pretty awesome.


    Posted by Stu Saunders in Leadership Learning and Growing Motivation on Jan 9, 2011 at 10:16 am | Permanent Link | Comments (5)

  • Lessons Learned

    Dec 29, 2010

    As the year draws to a close and the prospect of a new year approaches, the excitement of New Year’s resolutions is upon us all. We all make a set of goals and objectives trying to make our year better, our lives better. The truth is that studies show that 12 percent of men and 10 percent of women actually achieve their resolutions.

    So, I thought I would share what I have learned in 2010 with the idea in mind that it may help myself and perhaps you in setting your goals for 2011.

    1. Be the kindest person you can be and the world will come to you.
    2. Show gratitude every day and in every way. Thank you are the two most important words in any language.
    3. Eat better, sugar and processed foods are not good.
    4. Just because the label says it’s natural doesn’t make it good for you.
    5. Drink at least 1 litre of water every day, if you can 2 litres.
    6. Have the conversations you need to have, even if they scare you (this one I need to always work on).
    7. Facebook is not the greatest thing in the world.
    8. Playing on the Wii is not the same as playing outside.
    9. Many parents are too over protective and could do well to remember their childhood.
    10. Making someones day doesn’t take cash.
    11. Reading a book is a still awesome. Including the BOOK OF AWESOME.
    12. The value of a hand written note has way more value then an email or text message.
    13. I can always be better and you can make that choice every day.
    14. The more you give the more you get.
    15. I really enjoy a glass of red wine.
    16. I love taking my dog for a walk. Be outside more in 2011.
    17. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side.
    18. Grow where you are planted.
    19. Journal, journal, journal! If your life is worth living, it’s worth recording.
    20. Get up earlier.
    21. Simplify your life. Clutter in your world = clutter in your mind.
    22. I have a lot to learn - So do you.
    23. It’s ok to say no.
    24. It’s ok to say “I don’t know.”
    25. Ask your parents about their childhood.
    26. I don’t always have to make my kids life “better” than yours. My life (and yours) was probably pretty good.
    27. Spend more money on a good mattress than a good TV.
    28. Summer Camp is a good thing that every child should experience.
    29. Apple has the best customer service in any industry.
    30. Writing a gratitude list is a very good thing.
    31. 1% actions steps are the key to all success. Break down your goals.
    32. I can make a New Year’s Resolution at any time. In fact the 1st of January isn’t the best day (statistically proven).
    33. I am incredibly lucky to be alive, live in the country I do and have the family I have. Thank you.

    Happy New Year to all! Forward this list if you think it’s valuable.

    Thanks to all those that have supported me, YLCC, OSLC and all that we do.


    Posted by Stu Saunders in Leadership Family Life Learning and Growing Motivation on Dec 29, 2010 at 12:27 pm | Permanent Link | Comments (5)

  • Friendaversery

    Nov 24, 2010

    It is said that children come to us more highly evolved then adults. In fact children are often quoted and used as examples of wisdom. They give us constant examples. In fact most parents will willingly tell you that their lives have been changed dramatically by their kids. They have new outlooks on life, new priorities and even a new appreciation for the little things.

    The wonder that a toddler experiences every single day is awesome. A butterfly, flower, dog, shiny key or bright piece of fabric can bring a clown sized smile to a one or two year old. The excitement of running fast or jumping over or in a puddle can amaze a four or five year old. The creation a seven year old makes out of a cardboard box can entertain for days even weeks. The optimistic perspective of a ten year old can create change in even the most shrewd forty-five year old corporate titan.

    My kids are amazing. They teach me every day and have for years. Kristina at six years old, now nineteen, said, “Wouldn’t it be great if life was like a VHS tape? You could fast forward through the bad stuff and rewind and watch the good stuff over and over again!”

    Yesterday, while talking to my ten year old son, he was excited to tell me about how special the day was. When I asked him why he said, “Today is me and Luke’s friendaversary!”

    “What’s that mean?”, I asked having an idea what this ‘holiday may represent.

    “It’s been five years since Luke and I became friends! Each year we celebrate our friendship.”

    Awesome. Truly simple. I hope that hallmark doesn’t hear about this new found celebration or else we will soon find “Friendaversary” cards available at local card shops.

    What a great idea, celebrating our friends. Luke and Matty don’t go out for a fancy dinner, buy an expensive gift or go away on a trip. Matty says they simply talk about “old times” and laugh.

    Please take a moment today to do two things; one, celebrate a good friend and two, ask a child about their perspective on life, what’s important and how to better enjoy our days. You may be amazed at what you learn.


    Posted by Stu Saunders in Leadership Family Life Learning and Growing Motivation on Nov 24, 2010 at 1:56 pm | Permanent Link | Comments (3)

  • Change happens

    Nov 16, 2010

    I haven’t written in a long time. I have started many a blog that way, I realize that. Got me thinking, why? Why do I write so much less then I used to? I think I have been in a bit of a funk. Things are going great right now, please don’t get me wrong. Life is actually pretty awesome. I just can’t seem to find the personal spark right now. I know it’s right there, just sitting there waiting. I am trying to make some big decisions right now, life changing, business changing, health changers. I know I need to spend some time with me, all alone, with my journal and figure it out. Change is ok. Scary and uncomfortable but good. I need to be ok with that. I hope that when I get through this process I am much clearer then I am now.

    If there is a lesson in all of this I think it’s ok to uncomfortable with stuff. I also believe that any good leader is always learning and growing. HERE IS BIG NEWS, you aren’t perfect. Far from it. No one is. I meet people all the time, even some that work with me that believe that they have it all figured out. They don’t. They really don’t. That’s a hard lesson to learn. Just when you get comfortable, you should force yourself to be uncomfortable. That where the growth happens. I also continue to be reminded that the grass isn’t always, in fact rarely is, greener on the other side. Grow where you are planted, shine even on those cloudy days and be ok with change, in fact embrace it.


    Posted by Stu Saunders in Leadership Learning and Growing Motivation on Nov 16, 2010 at 2:58 pm | Permanent Link | Comments (2)

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