Do You Need a Left Foot Gas Pedal to Get Going?

Accountability Growth mindset Resilience


Key Point: “Make today your day to get going on what you really want for yourself.” That sounds like such a trite, over-used, hunk of self-help psycho babble until… Until someone is lying beside you on the pavement, blood gushing out of you like water from a garden hose, an angel holding your hand, gently stroking your cheek and kindly coaxing you on… “It’s ok sweetie, you can let go and go to God.” That’s what happened to now paralympian snowboarder and cyclist, Michelle Salt. She told me that part of the story, being at the white space intersection between life and death, the other night over a very inspirational dinner.

On June 27, 2011, on a twisting road near Cochrane in southern Alberta, Michelle was out on her new motorbike, enjoying a summer ride. A curve in the road, and suddenly she was cartwheeling with her bike, ricocheting from one guardrail to another. Michelle crushed 13 bones, including a femur that severed a vital artery. The heroes flying the STARS chopper (who bravely landed in a spot they shouldn’t have), numerous other first responders, the “angel” who stopped and caressed her, a loving support group of family/friends and of course the medical team at Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary, saved her life. Michelle spent seven days on life support and underwent five major surgeries, including the amputation of her right leg. Unbelievably, Michelle remained conscious until the operation. The woman lying beside her on the road, lovingly holding her, was a passer by who happened to be an ex emergency nurse. The nurse knew the artery was severed and that Michelle would surely bleed out. Miraculously, that didn’t happen.


When you listen to Michelle’s story, (and she modestly reminds us that that every paralympian and many others have an awe inspiring story), it is that splash of cold water on the face we can all benefit from now and then. A week after the accident, when the tubes came out of Michelle’s mouth, she purposefully made a turn for the better, and believe it or not she started talking about competing as a snowboarder in the paralympics. Two-and-a-half years later, after incredible dedication and grit, Salt competed in Sochi. WOW… (BTW… She tore her MCL hitting a tree 30 days before she was scheduled to compete).

If you listen carefully to Michelle, her message is less about overcoming adversity as a so-called disabled amputee, than it is about goal setting, perseverance, forward progress, forgiveness, compassion and having the presence to enjoy the wonder and beauty of each day. Michelle will tell you that she sees colors brighter than ever, takes time to invest in relationships and is grateful for what she has every single day. She rotates her prosthesis into a right angle, the sole of her shoe like a tabletop, as she sits beside me. She notes that an upside shoe is great for resting her beer on. We both burst out laughing. Her biggest challenge, she says, is renting a car with a left foot gas pedal. She needs that to drive, but never to move forward.

Character Moves:

  1. Don’t wait for “that” defining moment on your road to get inspired. You have what you need to start now. My self-accountable mantra is, “do it now…” Not rashly or desperately, but with intention. Step-by-step, bit-by-bit, learn, apply, and move forward.
  2. Have a defined personal aspiration. Don’t let excuses get in the way. That someone or something (like a missing right leg) is somehow preventing you from moving toward your desired future state. It is sad how many people have fuzzy or zero aspirations. They just let life pull them along, blaming themselves and others for where they may be stuck. They can’t seem to find the gas pedal because they don’t know where they want to go.
  3. Michelle’s gas pedal is literally now on the left side, but she’s always driving forward. And she is not afraid or embarrassed to ask for help or encouragement. She also falls down a lot. (The night we had dinner, she was recovering from a concussion). You and I as mostly “able bodies,” need the same. We need coaching, encouragement, support, and the ability to get up after we fall. It’s ok. It’s authentic. Seek out coaching and sponsorship. Most of us can’t, and likely shouldn’t, try to go it alone. But we should GO.

Left Pedaling Forward in the Triangle,



I See Myself… I Am Here

Authenticity Books Respect


Key Point: What conversations do you have with yourself? Susan Scott’s work in her book Fierce Conversations is so important, but it can be very irritating for me. I’m revisiting her work in preparation for a leadership development session I’m having with colleagues. She always takes me places that I often would like to avoid. Sometimes I’d prefer to have a glass of wine and watch a hockey game rather than think about what she provokes me to confront. Her phrase “the conversation is the relationship and the relationship is the conversation” is one of life’s key guiding principles as far as I’m concerned. Here is where it becomes most challenging for me. I know that the conversations I have with myself are an essential foundation to being able to have the most meaningful conversations with others. Frankly, sometimes I’d prefer just to “leave well enough alone” and to numbly pass. I know that’s wrong but… Geez… Pour the Pinot Noir, please.

Having fierce conversations with ourselves requires courage. We have to be honest and authentic with ourselves first and that takes an investment in time and thought. It usually requires us to empty ourselves of our version of reality and become more grounded. This requires confronting the “official” truth you tell yourself and others versus digging deeper to determine what the “ground” truth is. There is a greeting process of certain tribes in Africa that starts with the following sequence:

The greeter: “I see you.”

The greeted: “I am here.”

The point is, of course, that until you literally get present and fully see the other person, they are not really there. I believe that greeting also applies to the way we might best treat ourselves… I see myself… I am here. In fact, the root of “respect,” as I write about it in The Character Triangle, is “look again.” This self-look however does NOT involve spending ANY useless time on self-blame or judgment. Life is definitely curly and wishing for it to be straight and simple is a fool’s paradise. However being consciously present, authentic and honest with ourselves is the platform for deeper and more meaningful conversations with others.

Character Moves (as inspired by Susan Scott):

  1. Learn how to employ what Scott calls the Mineral Rights model. The four principles are: Interrogate reality, Provoke learning, Tackle tough challenges, Enrich relationships. There are numerous techniques and ways of utilizing this model. Explore more of Scott’s work to discover them.
  2. Dig deeper into understanding and grounding your reality by exploring multiple perspectives without applying blame. Try not to just confirm how you think you should feel or what you should say, but describe how you really feel and identify what you want to say. Are there any differences between your “official truths” and “grounded truths?” What are the implications?
  3. Do a personal integrity scan. Write down your core values (worth spending some time to reflect on). Determine if there are what Scott describes as Integrity Outages between what you state you value and what is really happening in your work and personal life. (E.g. value: You believe in the value of continuously learning…Integrity outage… You haven’t committed to learning or doing anything new for a long time). Determine ways of cleaning up your integrity outages.
  4. Give yourself a refresher on Fierce Conversations. It may irritate you, and make you uncomfortable BUT it will propel you forward with yourselves and others.

I see and I am in The Triangle,



The Magical Flow-Strength-Value Formula (FSV)

Abundance Growth mindset Purpose


Key Point: Challenge yourself to find flow through your natural signature strengths. The intersection between what you’re good at, like to do, and what brings value to others is the sweet spot of contentment and some might even say, the formula to happiness. When you’re in that place, you may find what psychologists and other scientists often describe as “flow.” Flow is hard to describe, but we know it when we experience it. It’s those occasions when we are so connected to what we are doing that time flies. Despite the focus and concentration, we feel alive and energized. Whatever it is that allows us to feel this way, it is important to find the route to make it happen more often. This takes presence and self-awareness. It also requires some self-reflection to replicate and sustain it.

Do you know what a signature strength is? This is a term developed by the “father” of positive psychology, University of Pennsylvania professor, Dr. Martin Seligman. He and a team of researchers catalogued the 24 cross-cultural character strengths that most contribute to human flourishing, and developed a survey to identify what he refers to as an individual’s signature strengths. Seligman found that it is most fulfilling when we are using signature character strengths; traits that are deeply embedded in who we are. Each time we use signature strength, it is normally translated into a skill we’re good at, and we experience a burst of positivity… Ultimately, flow.

I was doing a little research on signature strengths and I found this blog… The following is an excerpt:

“I just took the official test, and three of my top strengths were:

1. Appreciation of beauty and excellence.

2. Forgiveness and mercy

3. Love of learning.

Back when I was a corporate lawyer (and often got out of bed experiencing an unpleasant cocktail of emotions), I wasn’t using any of my core strengths, except perhaps love of learning — but even that was directed toward learning things I didn’t much care about. I loved many of the incidentals of the job — my colleagues, the sweeping view from my office window, the steady salary — but these very important things still were not enough. I found myself living for vacations. Now, in contrast, I use my strengths most every day, and as a result I love to work. What are your core strengths, and are you using them consistently? It seems to me that this is as good a definition as any of living ‘the good life.'”

That blog was by now well known author Susan Cain, prior to publishing her New York Times best seller Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. The evidence is clear: We are most likely to value a job, relationship, or volunteer activity that allows us to use our strengths regularly. And, one of the best ways of finding flow, and boosting happiness is to find new ways and new situations to use our signature strengths. So how do we do that?

Character Moves:

  1. Make sure you know what you’re signature strengths are. They make you unique. While Seligman and team focus on 24 strengths, yours are in a combination and application that is distinctly personal. Take this free survey. You can invest more to find out additional information. (Please note I have no commercial connection to this site in any way).
  2. Do not believe that gain has to be associated with total pain. If what you’re doing is continuously painful, and up hill… Well, frankly, something is wrong. You are not in flow and you’re likely not spending most of your time using your signature strengths. Of course, most things worthwhile take work and energy but that’s different than distress. Find a way to spend most of your time leveraging your signature strengths. That doesn’t always mean changing jobs or careers, but it does involve applying your core strengths to what you’re doing.
  3. Remember to add in the element of “adds value to others” to the recipe. Applying your signature strengths will likely mean doing both what you’re naturally good at and hence like to do. This contributes to a sense of well-being. The intersection of adding value to others makes you more abundant and fortunately usually leads to putting “food on the table” in a very rewarding way.

FSV in The Triangle,