Inspire Your Audience

I wanted to share something important for my 100th post, and this is immediately what came to mind. It was written as my tenth speech for Toastmasters, the project was to “Inspire Your Audience”, and I chose to do so by highlighting three quotes. It was one of the hardest projects I’ve done to date, not necessarily because of the subject matter, but because I wanted to do it justice. I hope it brings you some inspiration, or motivation as the case may be.



You Are Dying

This is the opening line of a spoken word piece by Shane Koyczan called “Pinned to the Dish.” In this he speaks about regrets and missed opportunities. He asks,

What Are You Waiting For

It’s easy for us to resist change even though our current path leads to all kinds of unproductive situations. We make excuses because we’re afraid. We say things like, I’m not good enough. I don’t have time. Or it’s too late, I’m too old. Well, the first two are easy, you are, and you will if you make it a priority. The last one I struggle with, because I often hear it from people who are far too young to have anything to complain about. And so, in response I offer you quote #1.

It's Never Too Late

I like this one a lot, but the problem is that George Eliot didn’t say it. It actually comes from a passage in “The Ghost in the Picture Room” written in 1859 by Adelaide Anne Procter,


No star is ever lost we once have seen,

We always may be what we might have been.


What I’m learning lately is that for many the most productive and rewarding years of their life aren’t until much further down the line. In fact, there are people all around us who have changed direction late in life and had a huge impact. George Eliot didn’t write quote #1 but was in fact a renowned author. She didn’t publish her first novel until the age of 40. I said she, because George Eliot was the pen name for Mary Anne Evans.


Link to image

I shouldn’t have to explain why a woman might want to adopt a male pen name in the late 1800’s, or today for that matter, but what I like to take away from this is that she wanted to write, and she found a way.




Link to image

Annie Proulx is the author of five novels, including The Shipping News and Postcards. You may be more familiar with a short story she wrote that was later turned into an Academy Award winning movie called Brokeback Mountain. This past November, at the age of 82, she won a National Book Award for Lifetime Achievement. This was amusing to her as she didn’t start writing fiction until she was 58.




Link to image

This is Charles Bradley, also known as “The Screaming Eagle of Soul”. He was 62 years old when he released his first studio album, “No Time For Dreaming”. It was named one of Rolling Stone Magazine’s top 50 albums of 2011. The follow up, “Victim of Love” came out in 2013. “Changes” was released in 2016. That same year, in October, he was diagnosed with stomach cancer. He fought hard and it was thought to have gone in to remission, but on September 6, 2017 he announced that he was cancelling all upcoming tour dates to focus on treatment as it had moved to his liver. 17 days later he passed away at the age of 68.

Welcome to quote #2,

The Problem Is

According to the internet this comes from the teachings of Buddha, but it’s actually based on a much longer passage in the third book of the Don Juan series, Journey to Ixtlan.

There is one simple thing wrong with you – you think you have plenty of time … If you don’t think your life is going to last forever, what are you waiting for? Why the hesitation to change?




This is my mother in-law, Jane Arams. In September of 2014, just before her 62nd birthday, she was diagnosed with Stage 4 Metastic Colon Cancer. She passed away in July of 2016. I had never experienced a loss like this before, but watching a life that was once so vibrant, diminish as it did, made me realize how much I take for granted every day.

Shortly before she passed, I found out that she had always wanted to see the Penguins at the Calgary Zoo, but didn’t get the chance. At that point she had been admitted to a palliative care facility and there was no turning back. It was something so small, but it still sticks with me today. Never mind that she won’t see her grandchildren grow, or get to experience retirement, even though she hadn’t needed to work for a number of years. It opened my eyes to all that I don’t make time for, or that I set aside, waiting for “one day”.

None of us lives forever, but some small hope comes in the form of quote #3, and the closing line of “Pinned to the Dish”,

Don't Panic

I have struggled over the past few years with putting perceived obligations to work and to my family ahead of my own needs. I resisted steps to change because I didn’t want to let certain people down, but the fact is, by playing small and setting aside my hopes and dreams, I was in fact letting everyone down, most importantly myself. The way I look at it, life is like an emergency situation on an airplane in that you need to put your own mask on first. By taking care of yourself, by being happy and living your best life, you are giving everyone around you permission to do the same. With this realization in mind I decided to take some very small steps in a new direction.

This pile of paper (you’ll have to use your imagination here) represents 47,000 words of my first novel. I have a plan in place to self publish this, and a collection of short stories before the end of the year. I’m generally pretty hard on myself, but it’s a fact I am not extraordinary. If I can do this then anyone can. And so I ask all of you,

What Are You Waiting ForWhat can you do in the next thirty days to begin the journey to fulfilling your dreams? There’s still time. Don’t wait any longer.

Thank you.



The Ride

I had a dream last night.

I was riding shotgun in an old Volkswagen Kombi.  The headlights showed little of the surrounding Outback as we barreled down a narrow dirt road in the desolate wilds of Australia.  There were so many stars in the clear night sky that I couldn’t pick out any familiar constellations.

The inside of the Kombi was dusty but uncluttered.  It smelled faintly of the ocean.  The passenger compartment held only a large canvas bag and a pile of wrinkled clothes.  A small cluster of foam floats sat in the bunt of a throw net hanging along the driver’s side back window.  There was no signal on the AM radio, or it was broken, I don’t remember.

The flatulent Aboriginal behind the wheel wasn’t much for conversation. He was hunched forward, forearms resting on the steering wheel.  Every now and then he would brush the unkempt mop of silver streaked wavy hair out of his eyes.  His bushy white beard seemed to have secrets of its own.  Above the waist he was naked except for a thin rope necklace with a cluster of quills hanging low.  His dark skin seemed to glisten in the dim glow of the instrument cluster.

He noticed my judgmental glance after the textbook definition of “silent but deadly” enveloped the cabin.  His wide smile showed all of his remaining teeth, yellow and crooked.  “Powered by Natural Gas mate.”

Without taking his eyes off of the road he reached down into a brown paper bag sitting between the front seats and came back up with half a sandwich in his hand.  He looked at me, offering the wedge in my direction.  Between two pale white slices were what looked to be a thick cut piece of cheddar surrounded by a foul smelling brown paste.  After I declined he shrugged and bit off half of the sandwich in one go.  Chewing slowly he returned to his position at the wheel.

We drove on in silence, save for the hum of the aircooled engine ticking away behind us like clockwork.  The empty turtle shell hanging from the rearview mirror swayed gently back and forth as we traversed the uneven road.

At some point that could have been minutes or hours later, my nameless friend pulled the Kombi over to the side of the road and turned the ignition off.  “Need a rest mate.”  I asked him if we could keep going, just a little longer.  “Nah mate, I’m buggered.”

With that he opened his door, jumped down to the dusty road and then wandered off into the night.  I reached over and closed the open door and then sat back, defeated.  Not knowing what else to do, I waited in the dark for whatever the night was going to bring.