Down (but not out) at 25,000 feet

Just after midnight on Thursday, I posted a message that only began to explain my mood:

Twitter1016

Little did I know at the time that my Thursday would be a lot more eventful than expected and that I would be running more than one race.

I organize team building events in the format of the TV show The Amazing Race. All of our events are custom designed and personalized. Every race is unique. The finished product is the result of countless hours of work including much logistical planning. The process for designing a race begins weeks before its execution.

When I left my house at 8am for Trudeau airport in Montreal on Thursday morning with a bag of materials and clues for a 3pm race in Toronto, I was excited but very calm. Visibility was poor around Toronto’s City airport but I had time. I knew that my 9:30am flight could be delayed up to 2 full hours and I would still arrive with enough time to set up and get the race going.

At the airport, I learned that the 8:30am flight had not yet left, and along with the 9:30am flight, we were waiting for the fog to lift in Toronto before departing. My previous experience was this this was a morning phenomenon and I was confident that we would leave well before 11:30am. The pilot of the flight, along with the Montreal ground crew, were watching a camera perched at the Toronto airport and were encouraged by what they saw. Obviously, their optimism encouraged me.

I got off on next flight out, just before 10am. I knew my schedule would be tight, but that I had time. In the air, all felt perfectly normal, until the captain took to the PA system and explained that the weather conditions had worsened since we took off and that, though we were approaching Toronto’s Billy Bishop airport, that we would have to “hold up here for a while”. When he said he would update us “every 10 minutes”, we all got the sense that this wouldn’t be a short wait.

10, 20, 30 minutes passed. The captain made an attempt to land. We were at the height of the Rogers Center and part way up the CN Tower. We saw they were virtually engulfed in dark fog. The captain pulled the plane back up.

I was still calm. A few passengers started talking about how we would rather land safely and be late than risk a landing with poor visibility.

10, 20 more minutes passed. The captain then explained that we are going to try again from the other side. We made an approach that allowed me to just barely see the edge of the runway from my seat in row 9. And then we were pulled back up again.

At this point, I am slightly on edge. I reassure myself with the knowledge that we were so close. 300 meters to be precise, confirmed by a handheld GPS and ultimately by the co-pilot later on.  The passengers around me start discussing theories of what might come next. Generally, we are confident this is all coming to an end soon, but the word “Pearson” (as in the airport) has entered the conversation.

5-10 minutes later, and the captain takes the mic again. We are all expecting him to say we’re trying again. I wonder if a “third time’s the charm” comment is forthcoming.

Instead, he says this:

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. As you’ve noticed, we have tried twice to land at Toronto City airport, but the fog is not permitting a safe landing… We will be proceeding to our alternate… (Pause)”

He paused long enough for everyone in the middle of the plane to either mouth, or say aloud, “Pearson.”

Then he continued. “Our alternate is Montreal. Arrival time in Montreal is…”

A collective, audible gasp could be heard. I am confident that what came out of my mouth was a hushed “no!” though the voice inside my head screamed something that sounded more like “no <censored> way!”

I looked around for a flight attendant, probably to get a visual confirmation that the captain said what I thought (feared) he said. Emily and Kathleen,  I quickly learned their names, were being bombarded with questions. We could not believe our ears.

Now headed east, an intense feeling of resignation came over me. I started to rehash and question my decisions. Should I have flown the night before at this time of year? Could I have foreseen such a crazy delay? Did I do everything I needed to do to put myself in a position for success on this race? I was upset but I was taking it out on myself. I wanted to punch a seat. I joked with the flight attendants who asked me not to. I obliged.

Standing at the back of the plane, trapped without communication at 25,000 feet, I felt helpless. I tried to ignore that I would need to explain this to my client by getting into a conversation with the flight attendants. They were in good spirits. My inner voice explained their calmness as being “on the clock” and that they wouldn’t have to deal with the same consequences I would. I started to try to justify my bad mood.

And then, my feeling of helplessness bothered me more than the circumstances I found myself in. I became defiant. I looked at the flight attendants and said: “forget this! I’m going to make this work!” (Ummm..  the f-word I used wasn’t “forget”.)

I went back to my seat and pulled out my laptop and started preparing emails with the clues and instructions for my staff on the ground in Toronto. The clues would need to be reprinted and materials would need to be delivered, but I certainly wasn’t going to accomplish anything useful by brooding or feeling sorry for myself.

As soon as we landed, I took the front seat of the plane, connected to the airport’s Wi-Fi and sent the e-mails. I called my awesome staff and race partners and explained what they needed to do to make this work. We were on the ground for about 35 minutes, and I used every single one of them to be in productive communication. I was committed to making this work regardless of the circumstances.

I called my client (interrupting his presentation at his company meeting), explained the situation and reiterated my commitment to making this work. We agreed to postpone the race start by an hour. Bolstered by his flexibility and generous understanding, I got right back to making the necessary adjustments.

By the time we were up in the air again, this time with a very confident confirmation from the pilot that we would not be back in Montreal, I was cautiously optimistic. This was a freaky, unexpected situation that forced me to let go of the reins, relinquish control, and put my trust and faith in my partners. Though I absolutely love what I do for a living, I have had a lot of trouble doing this in the past. This company is my proverbial “baby” and I have been meticulous about making sure that nothing bad happens to it.

In this situation, it was absolutely clear that if we were to see success in this event, I would need to lean on others rather than do it all on my own. There was only so much I could do over the next 55 minutes in the sky and I did all of it, just in case. Ultimately, though, it was my staff and partners who came through and made this race happen.

I could not be more grateful for their listening, partnership, and can-do attitude. Thank you to Lee, Willard, Debby, and Frances for helping turn a very unfortunate situation into a wonderful learning experience. Through Amazing Race Canada, I have designed engaging challenges to teach effective problem solving skills, but this one was more challenging than any I have dreamed up.

I was recently told that “attitude is altitude”. Looking back, I will not soon forget how a change of attitude at an altitude of 25,000 feet changed the course of this fateful day. Sure, our circumstances have an effect on our lives, but having (and keeping) a positive attitude can overcome some of the most challenging situations we might encounter.

Ron MacLean, French referees, and public outrage

First of all, GO HABS GO! Great series, boys!

If you’re a fan like me, you watched games 1-4 attentively, with excitement. You would have seen a young French referee in Game 3 named Francis Charron make a very gutsy call to disallow a Tampa Bay goal. You would have seen the shock that followed from the Tampa bench. You would have expected, from experience, that the fact that this referee and the Montreal coach and GM spoke the same first language would be brought up. Sadly.

You’d have been right.

Then, in Game 4, another French referee, Francois St. Laurent, is involved in another goalmouth decision. This time, he decides in favour of Tampa Bay. Phew. Crisis averted, right?

Nope.

At the intermission, CBC’s Ron MacLean opines that the NHL should not have assigned a French referee to this game, given what happened in the last game.

Okay. Interesting.

Then, within hours, outrage from people in various parts of the country at this comment.

The Montreal Gazette, in its typical habit of promoting controversy to sell “papers”, publishes a letter to the editor written at lightning-fast speed (so fast he didn’t even care to check facts or understand context) by Calgary native Kevin O’Connor, who criticizes, well, everyone at the CBC, saying this:

Ron MacLean’s comments regarding the inappropriate use of French referees in the Montreal Canadiens vs. Tampa Bay game was insulting to all Canadians who respect diversity and who live in a country that claims this as a value.

To think our so-called national broadcaster allows such divisive rhetoric is deplorable and just reinforces the fact that the CBC should have its funding cut (even though I do not support the political reasons the government uses to justify its cuts).

The CBC should be ashamed of itself! I know my family and I are.

I would love to have someone from CBC provide an explanation to my 6-year-old son, who asked “why is Mr. MacLean saying they should not have French referees?”

(…)

Once again, shame on the CBC. Hopefully Rogers will provide a more balanced coverage and keep divisive ignorant behaviour to a minimum.

A soon to be RDS customer …

Kevin O’Connor, Calgary

Since he asks so nicely for someone to provide an explanation to his 6-year old son, and since I love to help, here’s one I wrote just for him. I invite him to share this with his young child.

To Kevin O’Connor, outraged Habs fan:

As a proud Habs fan myself, I watched last night’s Game 4 with interest and excitement, and heard the comment that Ron MacLean made about French referees during the intermission.

As a parent, aware of my child being a proverbial “sponge”, soaking in comments from all around, and her being very inquisitive, I am sensitive to your call for “someone from CBC provide an explanation to my 6-year-old son, who asked “why is Mr. MacLean saying they should not have French referees?””

Since I doubt that the CBC would take the time to provide such an answer to you, please accept mine.

First, I would tell your son that Mr. MacLean did not actually say they should not have French referees. I would tell him that it is important to listen carefully before criticizing. What Mr. MacLean actually said was that he doesn’t think the league should have assigned a French referee for Game 4, the game following one where a French referee made a marginal call in favour of the Habs that had a huge impact on the game.

You could use this opportunity to teach your son the meaning of the term “unfortunate coincidence” given that you must, like all reasonable people, understand that professional hockey referees do not stand to gain anything by calling a game in favour of one team or the other.

You could further teach your son that whether we like it or not, people will judge. They won’t take the time to understand the context of the thing they are complaining about, to get the full story, or even make sure that the story they tell is true. They will judge anyway.

Oh, wait. You did teach your son that. You proved to him that his own father is the worst example of that, by writing this letter.

Now that you have received my explanation, Mr. O’Connor, I would ask you to provide me with an explanation of why you are so outraged by MacLean’s so-called generalization of “French referees” (that you have wildly misinterpreted, by the way) while finding it completely acceptable to generalize MacLean’s personal comment to be representative of the entire CBC. I actually read what you wrote (“The CBC should be ashamed of itself!) and again later (Once again, shame on the CBC!) before criticizing. Why should an entire network be ashamed because of a singular comment made by one person during a live broadcast?

Finally, you could teach your son that people make mistakes, and that the honourable ones take responsibility and apologize, just like Ron MacLean did. The sad part, here, is that you criticized so quickly that you didn’t give him the time to teach your son the most important lesson of all – that when you do wrong, or might have, to ultimately do what is right.

Mark (Unleashed)

Good riddance, ex-Premier Marois

I understand that politically correct offers of thanks to outgoing Premier Pauline Marois for her “service” to Quebec will happen. Still, I am confused when I hear them, given that Marois’ version of “service” was to divide Quebecers, sow hatred, and create space for people to “not be afraid to be intolerant” (her words).

However, reading Gazette columnist Jillian Page’s “appreciation” is simply shocking. To attempt to credit Marois for “putting herself in the line of fire,” literally, is to re-write what happened on the night of the 2012 election and what led up to it.

Let me be clear: I am not condoning shooting people one doesn’t agree with. We should not be surprised, however, that when someone runs a campaign meant on creating animosity between people and exploiting cultural and religious differences, and for what – personal, political gain – that someone would resort to extreme measures to stop it.

While die-hard Pequistes will claim that Premier Marois dedicated herself to Quebec, Monday night’s result shows clearly that most Quebecers understand that Marois’ only service was to her own narrow self-interest, at the expense of everyone who did not think like her or want what she wants. Rather than congratulate her, let us get right to the difficult work of building the bridges she destroyed and undoing the vast damage she caused to our communities and to our province.

Celebrity with a Deadly Past

As we approach the Paralympics, I find myself conflicted.

I witnessed much of the 2002 Paralympic Winter Games first hand as an employee of the the Salt Lake Organizing Committee, and can attest to the remarkable nature of and perseverance shown by these athletes in overcoming their physical limitations in order to excel in sport, and for some, in life.

That being said, some of the disabilities are not as unexpected as others. This story talks about how former Canadian Paralympic sledge hockey player Herve Lord admitted that on the night he lost his right leg in a car accident, he was driving drunk. The accident killed 2 parents and left 2 kids orphaned.

At the end of the video, this reporter calls Lord “an incredible guy” who has “been through an awful lot”.

  • Do you think he is incredible?
  • Does “being through an awful lot” count for as much when the hardship is of your own irresponsible causing?
  • Does someone like this deserve to be celebrated (in a report, as a representative of a country, in a session with the country’s leader) after what he did?
  • Does the fact that he served 16 months in prison make up for killing 2 people and leaving 2 others without their parents, AND allow him to live a normal life within his new context, an opportunity not afforded at all to the two he killed?
  • Does his remorse affect your opinion at all? How?

I am having a hard time forgiving this action and justifying cheering this guy on. Thankfully, he’s no longer part of the team, so I will be excitedly cheering on Canada these Paralympics in hopes of Triple Hockey Gold in Sochi. But I would love your opinions on how this guy’s past actions affect how you see him, and people like him, today.

Let’s build bridges in Quebec

The identity and Charter of Values debates in Quebec have definitely increased tensions on both sides of this province’s linguistic divide. Personally, I am sad and angry at this state of affairs. I am scared for the future of this province. The separation debate is one thing, but trying to win an election by instilling fear of your neighbours is much, much worse. 

Much of the support for these divisive policies seems to be coming from Quebec’s “regions”. Areas outside of the big cities where the population is very homogeneous. They don’t see Muslims very often. Most of them don’t have Muslim friends, and I dare say that many might never have even met one. 

It seems that there are 2 plausible explanations for the 40%+ support of these  policies. 1) that the people who support them are truly hateful, or 2) that they are scared, insecure, fearful of what they don’t know or have much experience with. I fear that it could be #1, but I hope with all of my heart that it is #2. 

One friend told me that he is disappointed that through all of the complaining about these laws, we are seeing very few solutions being proposed. He’s absolutely right. I would like to propose a solution, one that I need your help in making happen. 

Let’s build bridges in Quebec. 

The media hasn’t been effective in getting people to see other viewpoints. Harmony doesn’t sell newspapers and ad space; conflict does. Sensationalism does. And I certainly don’t trust this government to help. It is in the PQ’s interest to sow division, fear, and discontent in its base. 

So what can we do? 

We need to go straight to them. We need to travel to where they are. We need these people to meet real live anglophones, real live allophones, real live Muslims, face to face.

We need to create a direct dialogue to show them what we contribute to Quebec and to make it patently clear that, contrary to what the PQ will have them believe, we are partners, not enemies. 

We need to organize town hall type meetings where we can pass along a positive, unfiltered message. Where everyone can learn about the other in a way that isn’t biased by government propaganda or media hype. 

We have a problem, and direct dialogue is the only way that has a chance to solve it. 

We need to do this now. Yesterday, in fact.

I don’t personally have the resources to make this happen, but many interested Quebecers do. If you believe that this plan might make a difference, please share this post on your social networks in hopes that the right people will hear about it and help make it a reality.

Thank you.

Gold Medal Olympic Breakfast

WOOHOO!!! Congratulations to the Canadian men’s hockey team (and the women, and men’s curling, and women’s curling, and… ) on their incredible GOLD MEDAL performances!

I am not a fan of waking up before 7am, but if I am going to do it, it’s going to be for a good reason (Canadian Olympic hockey GOLD!) and I am going to have a great breakfast. Here’s what I made and served this morning:

CAN 3-SWE 0 for Olympic GOLD, Sochi 2014 Feb 23/2014

CAN 3-SWE 0 for Olympic GOLD, Sochi 2014 Feb 23/2014

All you need:

For the Olympic rings: bagels (Montreal bagels, the best in the world), cream cheese, red, blue, green, and yellow food colouring (mix red, green and blue to make the “black” for the middle ring),

For the gold medal: scrambled eggs and bacon (ran out just before 11pm last night for this ingredient)

Cut steak into the shape of a maple leaf for a Canadian finish.

Deliciously GOLDEN!

Congratulations to all of Canada’s athletes. So proud of how you represented us on the world stage!

See you in Pyeongchang in 2018!

2014 Super Bowl Commercials

Thank you for visiting Mark Unleashed, a blog dedicated to truly speaking freely, even when the opinion is not common or mainstream, and personal development.

Please check out some of my posts by clicking on the links to the right and subscribe to receive future posts right in your inbox. Thank you!

If you’re like me, the day after the Super Bowl is a day to check out all the commercials that you missed during the big game. Or, in Canada, all of the commercials that our immature national TV regulator prevented us from seeing in a bid to promote Canadian content. Here’s a link to simplify your search for all of the 2014 Super Bowl commercials. Thanks to Mashable for simplifying my search this year. Enjoy!

Which commercials did you like best? Post in the comments below!

http://mashable.com/2014/02/02/super-bowl-2014-commercials/#gallery/super-bowl-2014-ads/52efe04097b2f85182003580

Love, Mark