Climbing Mountains

I can’t wait. I can’t wait to see his face as we look down from the top of the mountain and he sees the distance he traveled and the height he climbed in a single day. I can’t wait to see him gaze over the horizon and feel like he’s the only person at the top of the world. I can’t wait to hear him state how lucky we are to be surrounded with such beauty, such richness, such freedom amidst a world continuously at war for those things we have right under our feet.  I can’t wait.

The dream of reaching the summit keeps him awake for weeks before – the trail, the wildlife, the journey, the exhaustion … full of mystery and imagination. Open spaces and unbridled curiosity. Our fervent chatter at the start mellows into rich conversation about life; then occasionally into expressions of ambition … followed by a quietness that allows us both to connect with the mountain under our feet.

When we climb mountains, we leave behind those things we should never drag into the wilderness. We unload our backpacks and leave our rocks behind. We breathe in the simplicity of nature while being vulnerable to the elements.  We embark on a journey upwards, not knowing what the destination will look like … only that it will be there.

There are no little mountains … only mountains.  We climb because they call to us to be climbed, and the journey transforms us.  Through rain, wind, sun and snow … we persevere.  The journey is a humble meditation … a form of worship and a lesson in perspective. With each step he grows and by the summit he has changed. For the journey would not have happened without his desire to begin … which all started with the courage within.

Be brave. Climb high. Reach your summit.

Building and/or Re-Building

There is a big blue Alberta flag that flies proudly in front of my house. There aren’t too many around, so this one seems to stand out. The big blue skies, snow-capped mountains, rolling hills, rushing rivers and vast wheat fields … such resilient history; much uncharted potential.

Our ebbs and flows, peaks and valleys, booms and busts have always challenged us … while our obstinance, optimism, defiance and tenacity have continually defined us. Through drought, flood, tornado, avalanche, blizzard, epidemic, landslide, hail, beetle and wildfire … we have always survived, always carried on … always will.

What I love about this province is that when disaster happens, we respond as if it was family and we pitch in to help as best we can. Firefighters head to Slave Lake to combat the flames while volunteers flock to Calgary to help clean up – each a unique act of kindness; all defining moments that unite our province.

Amidst endless effort to pit north against south and urban against rural, these unforeseen events and heartwarming responses are often the things that bring us closer together as Albertans. They allow us to build the Alberta brand – one of resilience, generosity, compassion, and collective responsibility – and they force us to drive through crisis while never losing sight of the provincial vision.

Over the past 30 days, southern Alberta has been devastated by one of these unforeseen events, and both the government and the people of Alberta have responded with the utmost resolve and compassion. An unbelievable outpouring of support … or actually … an unprecedented outpouring of support. So unprecedented, in fact, that it has changed the provincial vision and discourse from “Building Alberta” to “Re-Building Southern Alberta” which unfortunately now has the potential to undo the very things that have brought us closer together.

In times when the government is reacting with as much foresight and grace as possible, it is important that we respond as opposed to react … or over-react … to the fear that all focus has now shifted to the south. Our elected officials are tasked with governing the whole province, and in times of unforeseen crisis they know the importance of building the economic engine in the north while they figure out the policies and programs needed to help re-build the south.

As the headlines, blogs, talk-shows and tweets start to take shots at our provincial leaders who have worked relentlessly to restore the fundamentals, I hope all Albertans take a moment to appreciate our history of hardship and resilience, and our brand that is grounded in empathy and survival.

Needed: Entrepreneurial Thinking

I’ve always struggled with the word “entrepreneur.” I tend to raise an eyebrow and wonder what is really meant when someone says, “I want to become an entrepreneur” or when government says “we need to create more entrepreneurs.”  It always sounds noble, but I’m just not sure what to expect.

Is an entrepreneur someone who starts and assumes the risks of a new business?  Or, is an entrepreneur someone who champions new ideas, processes and solutions that create value … regardless of their vocation?  There’s a big difference, and it begs the question of whether entrepreneurship should only be taught in business schools, or should it be liberal art applied to all disciplines … entrepreneurship in medicine, in engineering, in education, in nursing as well as in business?

Which do we need more?  Entrepreneurs or Entrepreneurial Thinking? 

Exactly three months ago, we assembled a team of eight entrepreneurial Edmontonians from various disciplines and challenged them with the goal of building a festival that celebrates entrepreneurial thinking.  There were only three criteria:

  • It has to celebrate creativity and entrepreneurship applied to all kinds of disciplines, as we know industries and technologies are converging like never before, and we are surrounded by an endless stream of new opportunities to make change;
  • It has to become a platform for many, many organizations to get involved and use in their own creative ways … and over the next three years, it needs to grow into a 5-day, scalable, multi-location festival that takes place around the city … kinda like SXSW in Austin; and
  • It has to be launched this September and it has to be absolutely awesome from the very beginning.

You know what I love about entrepreneurial Edmontonians?  Without even a question, the group of eight (relative) strangers looked at each other, rolled up their sleeves and collectively said, “Yeah, we can make that happen.”

And exactly three months later, on July 8th, we launched E-Town 2013 ( with Commander Chris Hadfield and The Barenaked Ladies kicking off the opening night, followed by five interactive keynote speakers that will be discussing topics ranging from “Why Culture Trumps Strategy” to “The Future of Data and Privacy” to “Using Filmmaking to Create a Movement.”

Wait a minute you say … Chris Hadfield’s an astronaut, not an entrepreneur?

Wait a minute I say …. Does the world need another coffee shop, or does the world need another Chris Hadfield?  This risk-taker single-handedly changed how the world sees the space exploration industry while doubling the demand for science-based education.        No entrepreneur there!!

Entrepreneurial thinking, risk-taking, rule-breaking … converging Education, Entrepreneurship and Entertainment in Edmonton makes for a fantastic start to E-Town 2013.  This festival is all about the entrepreneurial mind-set … and you, your colleagues, your company, your community, your city, your country … we all need more of it.

Don’t miss it … Sept 12th/13th … ( … it will be remarkable.