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STU-Pendous Blog

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

  • When 50 was equal to 1000

    Jun 5, 2008

    Day 11, half way through the 22 day challenge. It really has been amazing. People have been asking me what is this 22 day challenge? It’s actually quite simple. The idea is to take the 15 areas of my life that I need to improve and commit to 22 days of non-stop work on them. No excuses, no days off.

    Why 22 days? Simple, there is a common belief that it takes 21 days to form a habit. So to make it for 22 days is to engrain the habit a little more. You can do it too! Just pick those 5, 12, 15 or 19 things that you want to change, write them down, keep a check list and then really commit to them. Watch the magic happen. Only pick the changes that truly matter to you!

    Last night was special, magical in fact. I was the MC of the annual Soldiers Memorial Hospital Golf Tournament and auction. What was incredible wasn’t just the fact that that we raised $130,000 for the hospital, it wasn’t the fact that we were able to buy a new stretcher, infant weight monitor and a vital sign monitor. People were generous and there was lots of fun to be had.

    My favourite part of the evening and the most magical was when we started the live auction. Now, I am not an auctioneer, but I was able to encourage the crowd to spend over $20,000. The first item up for bids, a fifty dollar bill. Our hope was to raise $100. The idea was that people shouldn’t come to charity auctions looking for a bargain. The point is to raise money! What happened next was awesome… The first bid was $50 (by me), then $100, everyone clapped we had done it, doubled the value. Then someone at the back said $250! What, wow!? I thought we were done, someone else said $500… then $750, the crowd was really excited. Finally an older gentleman put up a single finger… One thousand dollars. We closed the bidding. We had just raised $1000 for a fifty dollar bill. I was almost in tears.

    I asked the winning bidder what drove him to spend $1000 for a 50 dollar bill? His answer was brilliant…

    “We have a universal health care system, aren’t I part of this universe? We all need to work together.”

    I think if we all had that attitude about our communities, companies, our lives, friends and families we would all be a lot better off. It can’t always be about me, it needs to be about us. Together we truly are better.

    Let’s open the bidding at $250! Do I hear $300?

    Posted by Stu Saunders in Leadership on Jun 5, 2008 at 4:00 pm | Permanent Link | Comments (1)

  • The dot, dot, dot

    Jun 3, 2008

    I write a lot. I am not the best writer and I usually have lots of mistakes. I am lucky though to have some trusty proof readers. You can tell when one of them has read my material and when one hasn’t been proofed. One of my favourite things to use is the “...”. I use it to signify a pause, a moment to think. When the reader should stop and consider the thought that has been written.

    In life we rarely take time for the “...”. We live at a pace of such speed that we miss what is happening all around us. I was going for a run the other morning and got to my favourite spot on my route. It’s a little stream that runs through a forest, goes under the road, continues for another 150 feet and then eventually spills into the Lake. As I was running by I heard splashing, I turned quick to see three very large pearch swimming up stream, perhaps spawning. I slowed down to look. I turned looked to my left at the other side of the stream, winding away and disappearing into the woods. There, about 40 feet up was a Blue Heron. It was flipping small fish into its beak, one after the other. This moment was amazing. It was time for the dot, dot, dot.

    I find as I continue on the 22 day adventure (day 9) I am discovering more about myself, life and the world around me. I am taking time to absord life through my skin, eyes, nose, ears and touch. It’s beautiful. It’s calming.

    Take some time today to stop, absorb, listen. It can change the course of your day.

    Now, if you will excuse me, I have some life to absorb…

    Posted by Stu Saunders in Leadership on Jun 3, 2008 at 3:00 pm | Permanent Link | Comments (1)

  • Bike riding

    May 31, 2008

    I don’t remember learning to ride my bike. I am sure my dad or mom helped. I do remember my first real bike though. A purple chopper. One of my most vivid memories of being a child was my father taking me to get a new seat for it, one of the cool ones. Just like a real chopper motorcycle. I can see myself clipping my hockey cards on the spokes so that my bike would make that perfect sound, like I was really ridin’ a hog. Such a great memory.

    I do remember teaching my first daughter to ride her bike. My hand on the seat. Running with her, letting go and then she would wobble a little, then a lot and then in the end fall, cry a little and want to quit. We wouldn’t though, I would always say to her, as I have with the next two kids, “If you fall off, get back up, wipe of the dirt and try again.”

    I can see her just as vividly, that moment when I would run along behind her and let go and she didn’t fall. I would keep up with her not holding on. Then suddenly, I would slow down. She would ride along farther ahead by herself, tassles on the end of handle bars flowing in the wind, silver, pink, red. She would sail, I would stop. My eyes glazed over a little as this moment would be the first of many, those moments where you have to let go and let your child grow, help hoist the jib sail and let her ride the waves of life that lay ahead. To chart her own course.

    The key with life is no different than the key to riding a bicycle. You fall off, you get back up. Does it hurt to fall, yes and in the the case of a bike it can hurt a lot complete with bruises and blood. The moment though that you get it, the pain is gone… forgotten. Soon you ride with your hands behind your head, as if on a unicycle. With ease and grace.

    Today is my day 6. I have fallen a little here and little there but for the large majority of it I have pushed through. The best part is it’s getting easier. Life’s like that, some call it “the secret”, I call it bike riding. Nothing can beat that feeling of the wind in your hair, the sun on your face and the speed you get up going down a hill. It is truly brilliant.

    Live your days that way. Be the Lance Armstrong of your life. Peddle hard, fall… but get back up. I will.

    Posted by Stu Saunders in Leadership on May 31, 2008 at 2:00 pm | Permanent Link | Comments (0)

  • My guide

    May 28, 2008

    So three days into the 22 day challenge and I couldn’t be in a better place. Really loving it. I can actually feel myself getting healthier and stronger. I can feel the blood in my veins speeding up with excitement! I have taken to meditating in the morning. If you would have told me three years ago I would be meditating, I would have told you that you were a little crazy! I love it though. I have been doing it off and on for the last year and half and really using it find piece, to learn the art of focus (always working on that one).

    Today as I sat on my couch, my candle lit and the light smell of vanilla in the air I closed my eyes. The sounds of the ocean and the Japanese flute coming from my stereo. When I focused myself, I found I was on a beach, a light cool mist in the air. I took deep breaths. Soaking in the surroundings. I saw myself as I want to see me. Fit, smiling, calm and happy. I looked to my left and saw a man standing, alone. He was dressed in white pants and flowing white shirt. The colour that of a sand dollar. His head tilted to the sun. Although the sun was hidden behind light grey clouds hiding its warmth.

    I walked closer to him, trying to make eye contact. I couldn’t see his face. Although his hair was longer and his skin worn from a life of enduring strong gusts of sea air.

    “Who are you?” I enquired.

    “Your guide.” was the answer.

    I waited for more but nothing. His eyes remained closed his face directed towards the sky.

    “What are you looking at?” I finally asked, trying to break the silence.

    “The Sun!” a slight smirk could be seen coming from the corner of his mouth.

    “But, you can’t see the sun, it’s behind the clouds.”

    “You don’t have to see it to know it’s there…” he said in a wise tone.

    I looked up, trying to see what he saw; I closed my eyes and looked again. There it was, the sun. Brilliant! When I looked back towards my guide to tell him I saw the sun he was gone. I was alone again on the beach. Just me, the sand, the ocean and the sun.

    It’s true, isn’t it? You don’t have to see it to know it’s there. Disney saw his Magic Kingdom long before it ever truly existed. King saw a world of equality years before it would ever be realized (still isn’t there yet). It’s like the life that you choose for yourself. It hasn’t happened yet… not all of it. You have to see it before you can achieve it.

    That’s the point of my 22 day challenge… I need to clarify in order to see what’s next. What is it you want to see in the future? Think about it, it could be awesome!

    If you’ll excuse me, I have some sun to soak up.

    Posted by Stu Saunders in Leadership on May 28, 2008 at 2:40 pm | Permanent Link | Comments (2)

  • Fresh

    May 26, 2008

    Remember when you were just a little tyke? Remember Christmas Eve? I do. I can, clear as day remember standing in the middle of the hall of my house. My brother and I pulling our pyjamas bottoms down low and our shirts to our knees so that it looked as if we had tiny short legs. We would laugh so hard, our bellies would actually hurt. I can see my mom standing tall arms on her hips, in almost a superman post. She had a firm voice but a loving smirk as well…

    “Time for bed! Santa is coming but only if you are asleep!”

    I think my brother had stopped believing but kept up the magic for me. I would stall a little longer, waiting till the last moment before I was physically placed in my 10x12 space.

    I would crawl into bed and try and hold out for morning, one eye open and one closed. Kind of like an old west movie… you never know who would attack or surprise you… Santa?

    I would wake up at 3:55 that morning, Christmas day. No problem, no yawns, no complaints. Springing from my bed, waiting to hear my brother. Was he up? It’s was so dark outside! I had only slept for 3 or 4 hours but I felt well rested, like I had returned from a vacation.

    Many of us can’t remember those feelings! We can’t fathom the idea of getting up early. I can.

    Today, I started my 22 day challenge. This morning I sprang from bed at 4:39am, no problem. Why? Because I have a purpose and with a true purpose comes a powerful passion. One that rivals that of the childhood anticipation of Santa’s arrival.

    Do you have one? I hope so, because if you can find one, you will find a way to change the world!

    I will keep track of the 22 day challenge here on the STUpendous BLOG! Check back, start your own, today!

    I think I hear bells… Santa is that you? Woo hoo, life can be brilliant!

    Posted by Stu Saunders in Leadership on May 26, 2008 at 2:41 pm | Permanent Link | Comments (2)

  • 22

    May 21, 2008

    I was alone last night, late. I had just returned from a laughter filled evening with a few staff from our Leadership Training Centre. I stepped back into my house and stood at the front door, I surveyed the room by the light that was coming from above the stove. A low 25 watt light bulb filled the room with an eerie quiet. An unusual mess. What a busy weekend. I could here the bare feet slapping the floor, the laughter of my children while running from their bedroom to the kitchen and back top speed. Chasing each other, falling, waiting for a moment to see if any real pain would arrive. When none was felt they would spring to their feet and begin the run again. Ignoring my calls to slow down and be careful.

    I looked at that open space in front of the couch and saw my sons “Space Boy” pajamas and three power rangers strewn across the floor. On the dining room table a half drawn picture of my daughter and I holding hands looking towards the sun, big smiles. The written message being simple… “I love you daddy!”

    I looked around, sort of waiting, sort of just hoping for a call from their rooms. I heard nothing, just the wind through the trees outside my home. I kicked off my shoes and flopped down on my couch. I picked up the fourth book in the “Secrets of Droon” book series. A 30 plus set of children’s novels that we are reading. I wanted to read with them, to see their expression as the adventure was playing out in their heads. I wished they were there to say “Please daddy, just one more chapter!”

    They weren’t there. I had dropped them off at school that morning. I had driven home…. alone, feeling empty.

    I pulled my journal from my bag and started to read. To look over the past year. What was it that has made me so sad. Why couldn’t I bounce back from this feeling of emptiness? Maybe it’s because I wasn’t being true to me. Being honest with the whole picture. I need to change that. Please don’t get me wrong. Life is pretty good right now, I am spending time with wonderful people, my business seems to be going in the right direction and my personal life is looking up. I just can’t seem to shake this feeling of something missing.

    I wrote for a while in my journal, trying to be specific and yet straight from the heart. There were some common elements in those entries. I created a 22 day challenge for my self. 22 days of changing those pieces of my life that I know I need to reboot.

    I hope that through this process I will be able to jump back into the “game”. I can’t change how often I see my children, that is out of my hands. I can however create a home that will demonstrate an exceptional family life when they are here, with me. One that they will remember and cherish. It’s not about the stuff, it’s about the impact.

    I won’t see my children now for almost a month. When they return I will be ready. My heart on my sleeve, arms open to catch them when they are jumping into them. To hold onto the times we have and to love the moments we share together.

    The room is still quiet. I pick up a few of the toys on the floor and walk to their rooms. I fall onto my sons bed and look up at the big picture of Superman on the wall. I can only imagine what he dreams about… I close my eyes and nod off to sleep. It’s been a while since I slept in a single bed with pirate sheets… It was ok.

    Posted by Stu Saunders in Leadership on May 21, 2008 at 4:42 pm | Permanent Link | Comments (1)

  • Gone but not forgotten

    May 13, 2008

    I turned the corner to the entrance, the same road that I would ride that big yellow school bus as a camp counsellor. When you made that turn, if you were good, you knew exactly when to start. You would time it so when Bus 3 rounded the corner and entered the main camp you would be in full voice. All 40 kids screaming the camp song. It became a battle between buses. Kids would talk about that days winner around the flagpole.

    “Bus 3 was the loudest!” one young boy would announce. His statement met with jeers from the Bus 6 line! “Bus 6 can’t be beat!” , they would reply! The battle would go on all summer.

    I closed my eyes… I could hear the roar of the young campers as their excitement grew. This was my camp, their camp. It was a pride of exceptional levels!

    I opened my eyes to look down the camp entrance… gone. The trees and grass and wild flowers over grew the once well travelled path. I trekked down the road, hoping to see some of my past, where I grew up. As I turned the corner into main camp… nothing. The kitchen, brownie lodge, south lodge, the directors cabin… the flagpole, gone. There wasn’t a trace. Like nothing ever existed. Decades of childhood memories had to be just that. Memories. I looked for anything to touch, to hold, to look at… all gone. It felt like I had dreamt all of those summer stories.

    I walked down to the waterfront, the path so overgrown I got a little lost through the forest, the same woods that I could navigate in the pitch black without hesitation. I had to hike along the lake to find the waterfront area. I did get there, but it was nothing anymore, just a few feet of sand. Drift wood covered the once large beach area, weeds filled in the holes.

    I closed my eyes again. I could hear splashing, laughing, people swimming, I could hear my counsellor telling us it was time to canoe, to learn a new stroke, the J, the C… quiet now, gone but not forgotten. As I walked up the old service road I finally found a piece of the past. A couple of old archery stands, fallen over covered in Moss. There was the proof. I was there and so were thousands of other kids over those 40 or so years. I became a good person there. My mom made a choice so many years ago. Send Stuart to camp. I went. It made me in part who I am today.

    I heard the words of another camp director who retired earlier this year. He said, “I wanted to retire while I still loved what I did.”

    I still do love it. I was missing something though… I regained it back at that old waterfront. The innocence, the fun, the purity of it all. I truly hope that the thousands of campers that have been part of YLCC over the last 15 years will have such strong warm memories so that when they close their eyes they can remember the good, the laughter and the friendships.

    My old camp is gone, but it will never be forgotten. As I drove away, I thought of what it was, how it could disappear. Hard to understand. When I reached the top of the road I noticed an arrow nailed to a post. The arrow with the camps name on it was pointing to the direction of the camp… the camp that no longer exists. I stopped my car and got out. I looked up at the sign and jumped up to grab it. I pulled it off that pole and held it. I needed that sign more then the old camp did. The last physical proof that the camp ever existed is now gone. I will put it up at my camp. That way I can see it everyday, so I can remember why it is that I do what I do.

    I still think that Bus 3 was the loudest…

    Posted by Stu Saunders in Leadership on May 13, 2008 at 1:43 pm | Permanent Link | Comments (4)

  • 5000

    May 6, 2008

    I am a fan of politics; I am amazed every day how insane it really is. American politics is really fun to watch. How each candidate panders to the voters. Doing what they think will make them look good, sound sincere to a certain group. It could be drinking a beer in a local pub, bowling with town folk or even appearing on WWE wrestling. It’s like a big SITCOM.

    It’s fun to watch, but it’s also sad. The reality is that this world is really messed up. We need real leaders, doing very real things. I want to know what these potential leaders are going to do to right the ship, deal with real issues and make positive change.

    Last night I was watching an interview with Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. He said one of the most shocking stats I have ever heard… Ready for this? The United States spends $5000 a SECOND on the war. That’s $300,000 a minute or EIGHTEEN MILLION DOLLARS an hour!!

    I was shocked. That means in one day, the United States spends more money on a war then anything else… anything. You would have to think that if that money was to be spent on homeless, education, healthcare, alternative fules, world piece… you name it, it would have to better.

    We need real leaders in this world.

    We all need to start to realize that we are in real need of massive change. We need it soon. When I see my children smile, I hope that they will have a chance to be better. We all should hope so.

    Posted by Stu Saunders in Leadership on May 6, 2008 at 12:44 pm | Permanent Link | Comments (1)

  • Strength

    Apr 29, 2008

    Was thinking about strength tonight. On my phone there is a line that reads “For the kids!”. I wrote it as my screen note the day I got my phone and I haven’t changed it since. I think it’s important to draw your strength from something that is very real. I have been thinking of that for a LONG time and realized that the reason I do most of the things in my life is because of my three children. They are amazing. I cherish them every time I spend a moment with them!

    I was reading a book today by my friend and mentor Robin Sharma he wrote, “with purpose comes passion.”, true isn’t it? I am so busy on a daily basis that sometimes I simply shut down. I need to remember the reason I do things, it’s not me… it’s for them. To make their world and the world around them better. I am truly blessed that I have a position in which I can do that.

    So do you though, the choices that we make each day are HUGE.

    Mother Teresa said’ “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”

    What if we all realized that through our own actions we can draw strength. So tomorrow I speak to a group of young people… tomorrow I will find my strength in my actions, for my children and in the end for me!

    Here is today’s question… Read it, write it, answer and PLEASE share it here on the STUpendous BLOG!

    What do you find strength in and why?

    Posted by Stu Saunders in Leadership on Apr 29, 2008 at 6:45 pm | Permanent Link | Comments (3)

  • Story Book

    Apr 22, 2008

    Saw a movie on the weekend. Nimm’s Island. Not bad, not great but above average. The movie was good because it was an adventure, one that I felt fine taking the kids to. No adult humour, just an adventure.

    I got one really great line from the film, went something like this…

    “Be the hero of your own life adventure!”

    Great message isn’t it? To often we look to others for the adventure or wish our life was like someone else’s. Truth be told your life should be the adventure and you really can be the hero.

    Live each day to the fullest, cheesy as it sounds it is a great way to live!

    Here is today’s question… Read it, write it, answer and of course share it here on the STUPendous BLOG!

    If you could be a hero who would it be? What qualities do you admire in your hero?

    Posted by Stu Saunders in Leadership on Apr 22, 2008 at 7:46 pm | Permanent Link | Comments (2)

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