March 29, 2015 - Graham (3rd person I approached)
I’ve had better weeks. I’m not writing this looking for sympathy, it’s just the truth. I wrote on Wednesday that I felt like I was slipping into a deep grey well. And while I’ve not gone down that well, I’m still sitting looking at the edge, albeit from a distance now.
But here’s the growth and the upside. I’ve been okay to just be, to observe and connect with how I’m feeling. Not avoiding it or denying it. Walking through, instead of around. That’s progress for me. Growth comes with it’s own pains and challenges, that’s one measure of how I know I’m progressing forward.
“That which we resist comes up for us the most.”
I walked past Graham, noticing he was surrounded with notebooks, a jotter pad, loose papers, and a phone. I wondered if he’d say he was too busy to chat, and was pleasantly surprised when he agreed to chat with me. He did ask how long I thought it would take, so I had an awareness of his time while chatting.
“I was born in Victoria, (on Vancouver island) and when I was still a baby, we moved to St. Catherines (Ontario),” Graham said.
“I have one brother, he’s three years older than I am. I’d say he’s my best friend. We’ve always gotten along and been close.”
After finishing elementary school, when Graham was fourteen, his family moved back to Victoria.
“My brother stayed in St. Catherines and completed high-school. Then he went straight to university,” he told me.
“I was excited about the move. I knew I’d be going to a new school anyway, it didn’t matter where it was. And we were moving back to British Columbia (BC) so yeah, I was pretty excited,” Graham said.
“I went to a private school. That was like having two-hundred immediate friends. There were international students who boarded at the school, so there was lots of people to meet, and new friends.”
When Graham mentioned the name of the school, I told him that I knew the Principal. I had lived in Victoria for nine years, and it is a small town, especially if you work in the arts. The Principal and his wife had been patrons of the theatre I worked at.
“That’s my father,” Graham said. My mouth may have dropped open at this point. I was a little wonderstruck at the universe and it’s magical less-than-six-degrees of separation. I repeated his father’s name again, just to be sure.
“Yeah, that’s my Dad,” he replied, flashing a huge, friendly smile. We talked a bit about what it was like to go to a private school where your father is the Principal.
“It was high-school, so that’s got it’s own challenges,” he said, shrugging his shoulders.
“I grew up understanding that education was important. We’ve got a lot of teachers and academics on both sides of the family.” Graham boarded at the school during Grade twelve.
“I did it for the experience,” he said.
“I was a Prefect as well, so that was part of the program.” A ‘Prefect’ is a senior student, selected to lead by example and mentor others.
“I enjoyed languages. French and Spanish. Learning a language allows you to connect with so many others,” he said. French and Spanish are both leading world languages, along with Cantonese and Mandarin.
“I tried to learn Cantonese. It’s a language that’s somewhat based in tone, with a high range of sounds. It’s difficult to learn,” he said. Graham did not pursue Cantonese.
“I went to Queen’s University (Kingston, Ontario) right after high-school,” he said.
“My brother had finished high-school in St Catherines and then he went to Queen’s. It was the first time I had gone to the same school as my brother. It was nice to have him there to be that person to lean on,” he said, gesturing someone falling backwards with his hand.
“And just someone who knew how things worked.”
Graham started studying French and Spanish.
“I did my major in Spanish Literature. When you’re studying literature, you’re learning about history, people, social structure, economy, the arts. Everything,” he said. I likened it to social studies.
“Yeah, it is like that,” Graham replied.
During his four years at Queens, Graham did an exchange semester.
“I went and studied in Guadalajara (Mexico), for a term. That was really exciting. I was nineteen and in it’s own way, it sort of felt like Victoria. I mean it’s much larger, but it felt safe, and comfortable,” he told me.
“I graduated with a degree in Spanish Literature,” he said. I asked if he’s used that knowledge since graduating. He gave me another flash of his big smile,
“Yes, I have.”
“I came back to BC, and got my Master’s degree in International Management, at Capilano (then College, now University). They had two programs, one focussed on business in the Asia Pacific region, and another that focussed on Latin America. I went with that one,” he said.
Graham got a position with a company in Dominica. At first he said he got a job, but didn’t say what it was. I jokingly made a remark about being sure it wasn’t waiting tables. Graham gave a very hearty laugh, that came from deep inside. It was one of those laughs you hear that is almost infectious, it’s so filled with pure joy.
“No, I wasn’t working in a restaurant. I was working for a real estate developer. I spent about nine months there. I had intended to stay longer, but… It was at the time of the country’s economic difficulties. I had to cash my paycheque on the black-market,” he said, incredulously.
“The banks wouldn’t give me US dollars, and if they paid me in the Dominican currency, it would depreciate by about twenty percent overnight.”
Returning to Vancouver, it was only a month later that he went on his next adventure.
“I got a short contract working for a resort developer back in Guadalajara. I was there for about six weeks and decided that it wasn’t really what I was looking for,” he told me.
“For the last ten years I was working in real estate marketing, here in Vancouver.”
When we had first started to chat, I asked Graham if he was studying, based on all the paperwork in front of him. He told me that he was working on a program he had put together. He’d received some mentorship, and guidance from an executive coach.
“The more I got into it, the more I was interested,” he said.
In a culmination of all of his experience, Graham has put together a development program. His program’s called ‘The Daily Method’ (his website can be found at ‘the daily method’ dot ca). It’s geared towards individuals reaching their full potential, in all areas of one’s life. A balance of health and wellness, both physical, and emotional. The primary goal is for participants to become activated on an elevated level and achieving their goals. In turn, that will help activate others to fulfil their potential.
"I’ve been fortunate to receive training from some world-class instructors. Tonight I’m presenting my program to my trusted advisors. I’m going to walk them through the completed program, and get feedback in real-time and see how it all works out,” he said.
“You can get all the training that’s available to you, but if it’s not about all areas of your life, sooner or later that success is going to fall apart. Whether it be six months or six years later, things will start to erode,” he said, with passion.
“You need to be healthy of mind and body, it’s all integrated. It’s important to address all areas. Take what is learned and put it into action.”
Naturally, we had gone over the time I said it would take. I took Graham’s photograph, thanked him for the chat, and we shook hands. It was no surprise that his handshake’s confident, well-connected, with good eye contact, and his warm, personable smile. I told him where his story would be posted and wished him well with his presentation this evening.
I headed to one of my favourite coffee shops to sit and write Graham’s story. I regularly spend time researching things that come up in the chats I have with people. It’s always very interesting and I love to learn new things. Sometimes it can be about a town, or a language, a song, an industry. I’ve learned a lot of stuff over the fifteen months that I’ve been talking to strangers. And not just about myself.
I’ve mentioned before about ‘asking one extra question.’ It’s a tool I’ve utilized to dig deeper into a topic of discussion. Sometimes it’s learning more about an individual’s motivation or reasoning behind a choice they’ve made. It might be how they feel about the outcome of a situation. I had asked Graham about being the Principal’s son at school, moving across the country, living in other countries. I hadn’t asked him about sports or health, even though it had come up, in relation to his Daily Method Program.
I was amazed to discover another layer that ran pretty deep in Graham’s story, that he hadn’t talked about. I was able to send him a message asking if I could write about the things I had discovered after our chat. I was happy to get a reply from him saying that it would be fine. Another unwritten Stranger Project rule broken - I’ve not as yet, written about things I’ve learned about people after talking to them. It’s definitely part of this story.
Graham is a huge adventurer, and seemingly very modest about it too. As a self-described sports philanthropist, Graham has overseen fundraising totalling over $600K, since 2008. He has ran triathlons (5km Swim, 223km Cycle, 22km Run). One of those triathlons was ‘The Escape from Alcatraz,’ where racers are taken by boat to Alcatraz Island (San Francisco Bay). The 2km swim, in waters known to have sharks, is the distance back to land before completing the other two stages of the triathlon.
He lead a team of first-time ultra runners in the Coastal Challenge. It’s a six day, 235KM run in the rainforest jungle, in Costa Rica.
He took part in The Big Five Marathon in South Africa. It’s run on an active game reserve, with the intention of spotting the most difficult to hunt animals in the reserve. (NO killing involved).
For me, the most staggering thing I discovered took place in Nepal. Graham undertook a six day, 250km self-sustaining foot race. Participants are given just six litres of water per day, nothing else. On day two, Graham got sick and tried to quit the race, but couldn’t get a phone signal to ask if that was ok, so he carried on. He lost 12 pounds and completed the personal challenge. When an interviewer asked what keeps him going in those moments, Graham replied
“One of the things that keeps me going is recognizing and remembering who I’m doing it for. So I felt very fortunate I didn’t get a hold of anyone.” He was racing for an organization called Mencap, which helps those with learning disabilities.
He went on to say
“One of the things I took away from this race was that we start to do a lot of the things that we’re doing to make ourselves bigger, and the reality is that we are really quite small. And when you go and push yourself to these limits, you realize how small you are. And it’s not that you’re learning about yourself, it’s that you’re learning what you didn’t know about yourself. That’s an experience I’m really grateful for.” I feel so inspired, and humbled.
I discovered that Graham knows a couple of my friends as well. You just never know what that person sitting alone in a deli, having a bite to eat and reading, has done in their life. All I needed to do was step away from my grey-well-watching, introduce myself and have a conversation. It all started with ‘Hello.’ #notastranger
Today’s story is sponsored by Moii Cafe, 2259 Cambie Street, Vancouver