January 2011 Review

Happy 2011! As hard as it is to believe, we’ve rounded the corner into a new year and have already closed the books on the month of January. And as I’m sitting here reflecting and thinking back on the past 31 days, paradoxically it seems like a lot has happened, yet very little has changed. I don’t know the best way to describe it other than things are moving along, but there’s still a lot to do before this year is over. I’m thinking back to something one of my mentors said to me many years ago. “It doesn’t matter if you succeed or fail. As long as you keep on moving forward, making progress, trying new things, and working towards your goals, you’ll be a winner”.

As I’m sitting here writing this update, I’m going to take a different approach and focus on some of the things I learned this month. The idea behind this is to continually think about how I’m changing and growing as a person rather than in the past being too self centered around the things I did. While these updates are written more for my benefit, I’ve decided to put them online for people who want to keep up with where I am and what I’m doing these days.

So without further ado, here are some of the things I learned this month:

Everyone Has a Bestselling Story to Tell:
I had a chance to spend a weekend out of town with fellow members of the Toronto Youth Food Policy Council. It was a weekend of strategic planning, but also a chance to spend a bit of time and get to know the other council members as most of us don’t get too many chances to interact outside of formal meetings. One of the most valuable things I took away from the meeting is learning about the diversity of experiences, background, and personalities of the different members. Everyone has such interesting backgrounds, stories, and personalities that I’m sure a bestselling novel could be written on any of the council members. The lesson – spend some time really getting to know people – they’ll surprise you with the most interesting stories you can imagine.

I Really Enjoy Cooking New Things
This month, I experimented with a few new recipes: kimchi, slow-cooker mulled cider, and apple kolbasa tapas – all of which turned out to be quite tasty and delicious. My strategy when deciding upon which recipes to try is to spend a bit of time researching different recipes or recipes around certain key ingredients to get my initial inspiration. I then try to find a recipe a suits the audience / mood / style I’m going for and use that as either the recipe or inspiration for whatever it is I’m going to cook. I use my judgment as what I think will taste good as the final litmus test, which can take up to 10-15 minutes figuring out what I’m going to make, and which recipe to use (rather than searching for and using the first recipe that pops up). The lesson – good food is definitely worth the extra few minutes it takes to find a recipe you like – and even the extra time it takes to cook/prepare and event the potential extra cost to purchase the ingredients.

I Enjoy Going to Various Events, But Also Enjoy My “Downtime”
No surprise here, but January featured a number of fun and interesting events (Guelph organic conference, beer club, and a couple of networking events). And while I enjoy being social, meeting new people, and trying new things, I also really enjoy my “downtime” or personal time where I can sit and reflect (and write this blog) and dream and gather my thoughts.

The Competitive Spirit Inside Me Needs Some Rekindling
I think competitive spirit is the wrong phrase. The words I think that best describe this feeling is “the drive to excel” or taking things to a higher level. What really put it in perspective was an ultimate game just over a week ago. It was the end of the fall indoor league and we were in the “championship” game. I say championship because while it was technically the last playoff game, it felt very much like a regular game. Not that we took it lightly, and we played well and ended up leading for almost the entire game. The other team however, seemed like they were putting their heart and soul into the game, especially as they started making a late charge towards the end. When time ran out, we were all squared, so it came to down universe point for the championship.  I wasn’t so much disappointed that we lost on universe point, but actually more disappointed that we missed out on getting the championship discs that TUC gives for each of its league champions. Talking about it after the game, we realized we could’ve put just a bit more effort into the game, and that probably would’ve made all the difference.

Extending this idea out to other areas of my life, I realize that the “competitive spirit” inside me is still there, and just needs a little coaxing for those times in life when we need to step up our game

I Work Well When There Are Lots of Things Happening
January 1st marks the beginning of the a new month, and also the beginning of a new year. As I started to settle into a new routine for the new year, it actually took me several weeks to really get into a new groove. And ironically, as things started to get busier, I started to get more productive, and that’s when I realized that I tend to work better when there are lots of things happening and I tend to focus when there are multiple projects and tasks to juggle. I’m happy to say that I’ve settled into a new fitness routine, I’m starting to set aside a bit of time to practice for my orchestra concerts (outside of the weekly practices), there’s always time for frisbee, and of course work activities will be at the top of the list for upcoming projects for this year.

That’s all for now. More lessons coming in February I’m sure.

You learn something every day if you pay attention.

-Ray LeBlond

January 2010 Review

January has been off to a fast start so far. The year is already 1/12 done, and I think I’ve made some good process in achieving some of my goals for this year. I’ve gone through a number of stimulating books, got involved with a new organization, and also had a bit of time to relax and have fun.

January Highlights:

1. Return from Lake Placid
At the beginning of the year, I got back from a short getaway to Lake Placid. I went with some friends from my frisbee team to enjoy some snowshoeing, cross county skiing, and have a retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city. For anyone looking for some outdoor activities in a beautiful mountain environment, I would highly recommend checking it out.

2. Toronto Youth Food Policy Council
Also this month, I submitted an application and received an offer to join the Toronto Youth Food Policy Council (no webiste yet). My term doesn’t start until September and I’m not quite sure exactly what my role and responsibilities will be, but it will involve dealing with local food issues and providing a youth perspective to the Toronto Food Policy Council. As a quick primer, here’s the mission statement of the TYFPC:

“We, as youth, are dedicated to building a food system that is sustainable, equitable, regionally focused and accessible. As a group that represents the diversity of Toronto, we will seek to build community partnerships, produce youth-centered policy documents and encourage the development of sustainable food system infrastructure connected to Toronto.”

3. Photo/Video Shoot
On the 24th, we held a photo/video shoot to get some footage for the Young Urban Farmerswebsite. I have to extend a huge thanks to our social media intern Fran who planned, coordinated, and executed the entire event. From finding the studio space, to coordinating with the photographer, to finding volunteers to be involved, planning the wardrobe, to making sure things went according to schedule – it was fantastic. I can’t wait to see some of the shots from the day and they will definitely be going up on our website in the near future.

4. The 29th Annual Guelph Organic Conference
At the end of the month, I had an opportunity to volunteer at the Guelph Organic Conference. This was a great opportunity to meet and speak with some of the people involved in the organic initiative from across Canada, attend a variety of interesting seminars, and visit the tradeshow with over 100 exhibitors. Who knows, maybe one day we’ll be the ones setting up a booth at the tradeshow. For now though, I was happy attending it as a participant and volunteer. Look for a more detailed writeup on my experiences at the conference soon.

5. New Products
This month, we confirmed that we will be retailers for a couple new and exciting products this year. The first product is a grow-it-yourself shiitake mushroom log that sits outdoors and will provide fresh mushrooms for at least 4 years. The second confirmed product is the Worm Factory 360for customers to make their own compost from their daily vegetable scraps. Both of these are premium products, and will allow us to diversify the edible solutions we offer to our customers. We’ve also got a few more exciting new products in the works, and the details will be announced shortly once they get finalized.

January Reflections:

At times like this, it’s hard to believe where the past 31 days of January have gone. On one hand, I can think back in detail and go through a laundry list some of my daily activities and of things that got done and projects I’ve made progress on. On the other hand, it feels January 1st was just a couple days ago and the year is still just getting started. While we can’t slow or speed up the passing of time, I’m satisfied with how this month has turned out so far.

As I sit and reflect the past month, I realized that January was primarily a month focused on business. While this isn’t a bad thing, as business and related stuff keeps me more than motivated and excited about the future, I don’t want to forget about my personal life, hobbies, and having fun as well (though I did get a chance to play lasertag, participate in some group fitness swims, spend an afternoon playing board games, and go clubbing this month). Moving forward, I will make a concerted effort to have more balance in my life, though at this point I don’t mind too much that business and related stuff takes up a good majority of my time and

One of the key lessons I learned this month was in regards to delegating. One mistake that I’ve made in the past was assigning too much responsibility up front, instead of gradually easing someone into greater and greater degrees of responsibilities. In the future, I’ll start off by delegating smaller projects, until the person proves themselves to be capable of to handle increased responsibilities or projects with more skill and complexity. This way, the person will be more prepared and setup for success, and I’ll be able to gradually ease myself off my tendency to micromanage. It’s a win-win situation.

Another lesson I was reminded of this month was to continually face challenges and opportunities with a mindset of abundance, rather than one of scarcity. In essence, this means to view life with a positive outlook, with the belief that there is an abundance of resources, ideas, and things to share.

Looking forward, February is going to be another fun and exciting month. Our sales and marketing is going to get started again for the 2010 growing season, I’m planning a field trip up to my aunt’s farm (let me know if you’re interested in coming with me), and our cash flow should turn positive again this month.

To conclude, I want to share with you this quotation by Woodrow Wilson I found while putting together the sales presentation for Young Urban Farmers CSA, and found it to be very inspiring and something that I’m trying to live up to every day.

“You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.”
– Woodrow Wilson