Celebrating a Lifetime of Legacies

Water ripplesIn January Henry Polessky passed away in Vancouver. Henry was a visionary and leader within the Canadian fitness industry. He will be honored this month at the International Health Racquet and Sports Club Association conference. His legacy and impact was exemplified even further during the celebration of his life last weekend which coincided with the end of the Olympics.  The afternoon was capped by the city of Vancouver lighting the Olympic torch to honour his contributions.

I knew Henry founded Fitness World and grew it into thirteen fitness clubs in metro Vancouver, but his other legacies weren’t well known to me until people began to speak about their connections to him. Dr. Taunton, Chief Medical Officer of the 2010 Olympics described how they both started the Vancouver Sun Run over 20 years ago which each year has nearly 50,000 participants who run or walk 10km. Rick Hanson, Man in Motion spoke about Henry’s advocacy for spinal cord research. Wally Oppal former BC Attorney General recalled how Henry was always interested in you were doing. Others told stories of how their life’s path changed for the better because of Henry’s encouragement.

Henry built his dream team which became a fitness family. These people worked passionately beside him for over 25 years until Fitness World was sold in 2009. Henry’s impact on me began  in 2000 when I joined Fitness World as a Personal Trainer.

One way that Henry showed that he cared about his staff and clubs was through his periodic visits to each club during which he would greet people by name. Two other ways were through the recognition awards held at the annual Christmas parties and his presence at company wide meetings.

In 2007, I came up with the idea of converting unused space in North Vancouver to build a rehabilitation center.  Throughout the negotiations Henry supported my idea while asking some tough questions to make sure that it would thrive but also that I would be to differentiate it from the Personal Training department. After several months he and the other owners agreed to give Lifemoves a shot. It isn’t often that you can start a whole new business within one while being an employee for the previous. In September 2007 I made the transition from employee to business owner; his support and that of others is something I will be eternally grateful for.

He showed me that it is important to treat everyone fairly and like your own family. In November I was invited to a weekly brunch with the core Fitness World family. Even in his frailty and after not seeing each other for several years he still remembered my name.  His actions always demonstrated how important it is to conduct yourself ethically and integrity, something that I echo even tough situations. Henry is missed and will be fondly remembered by many people including myself.

The celebration of his life left me wondering what others might end up saying about me. What legacy do I leave? Remember impressions we leave people with happen on every single interaction we have, not just when we pass away.

Our legacies don’t have to be world wide to make changes. Do something small today to make someone smile; they may just do the same to another. What will your legacy be?

Rediscovering My Story

Prairie Grain Elevators

As a birthday gift my mother sent me a photo of grandfather (her father) along with a few of his personal effects (he passed away in 1998), which included a resume of his medical education and publications.  He lived to be just over 90 years old, so how could two pages tell his story? He grew in Weyburn, Saskatchewan not far from Regina where I spent my FORMative years.

He and I went to many garage sales, he inspired me to become a health care professional and helped form my desire to learn photography (I wish I had learned more from him about film photography). There is a photo of him at my age; we look a lot a like, but I also have my paternal grandfather’s chin, who I never met..

My 40s are approaching, so I thought it was time to review the first nearly four decades.  We tie our identities to many things including what happened in our past, our occupations and our families. While our pasts have shaped us to become who we are today, they don’t have to shape tomorrow.  Each decision we made has had an effect on our lives; that decision could have been simply turning left instead of right a few years ago while walking to the grocer.

It took me many years to be able to comfortably, authentically and confidently share that depression and suicide attempts were part of my life.  The bullying that lead to these is no longer the story I tell, but I realize those years deeply affected my initial level of trust I hold towards people and how I handle particular situations.

Writing out my story from my birth in London, Ontario in 1976 to two wonderful parents, who have been married for nearly 50 years to today when I myself have been married for one and half years was quite a journey of discovery.

Those years after moving to Vancouver were quite traumatic, however I no longer have the emotions attached to high school bullying.  I jettisoned many of the self-defeating beliefs when I attended Unleash the Power Within with Tony Robbins.

What I also discovered is that I really didn’t celebrate that much. Each event I wrote down initially with very little emotion and often skipped over some major accomplishments and awards.  When I went back to fill in the blanks I started to feel very proud of what I have accomplished.

There are also some very pivotal moments in my  life that changed my direction completely.  One was deciding to come back to Vancouver after my undergraduate degree to attend UBC for non-degree related upper-level courses.  During this time I broke up with my fiancée and met Dr. Christensen, who has a spinal cord injury.  He was my first personal training client. Our six months together propelled the focus of my life’s work on providing those with disabilities, medical conditions and injuries with the opportunities, knowledge and facilities to stay active for life. It also inspired my vision for my own facility – which is almost crystal clear.

Being fired from my first job in fitness was devastating. However, one week later I was hired to as Personal Trainer at Fitness World within two days of handing in my resume.  During my eight years with them I blossomed into one of the top in the company for Personal Training sales, met my very dear friends and best woman at my wedding, met my lovely wife and I started Lifemoves as a strategic alliance with them.

Growing up in the Prairies really does define my character and pride. There is a very good poem by David Bouchard:

On the prairies I learned to embrace the snow and winter. I learned to cross-country ski, a sport I will be enjoying my entire life. My first twelve years also gave me a couple of pseudo elder brothers – the Jensens.  The two boys, Erik and Olaf were both older than me, but we did a lot together including learning to ski in Jackrabbits, playing with legos, hiking the Rockies and many Christmas dinners.  Being the youngest, of course I ended up with the hand-me-downs; a good thing in the end.

My time in Saskatchewan changed my blood colour to Rider Green.  Brock and I would get free tickets from Safeway to the kids’ end-zone area and then sneak into the main stadium claiming we had to call home (the only pay-phones in the place were in the concourse). One of my fondest memories is of attending a touch football camp at Taylor Field (now Mosaic stadium). We were mentored by some of my heroes. I still have the t-shirt, but it is a tight fit and my wife won’t let me wear it.

Growing up with my parents – no choice there, love them to bits shaped my values and the type of marriage I sought. I can not count a single divorce in my extended family, nor that of my wife’s.  My mother is doting and very caring, while my dad has is own unique way of showing is  devotion to my well-being.. He challenges me to always be better than I am by being very direct.

While I was younger both parents came on the family hikes and cross-country ski trips, but once I started to carry a pack, which was initially just my sleeping back the adventures became more just myself and my dad.

My mother was very happy being a wonderful children’s librarian who knew that if she climbed the library ladder who role would shift a way from the children. She had a knack for finding the oddest things. She would help me with my school projects. While my dad built a software company out of his home. He sold the software in the 80s and we moved – with great protest on my behalf to Vancouver in 1988.

It is his tenacity, hard work and entrepreneurial spirit is why I now own my own business. Being entrepreneur has tremendous challenges at times, but also many amazing rewards. The thought of working for someone else makes me shudder. My summer of kayaking and flexible hours working a training log software helped to understand that coding and software development is something I too enjoy.

Now, there are many similar products, but he was ahead of his time – nearly 20 years, but lacked the resources to make it big.  This makes me think, how can I gather the resources to go after my big audacious idea that I came up with in 2000?

Even with the thunderstorms and heavy rain in the winter, I am still very gratefully for the first year of kicking and screaming twenty-five years ago.  Vancouver is a wonderful place to live. Although I wish have traveled to Europe and USA, I will always come back home to Vancouver.  The day my parents permanently move back to Vancouver I will be jumping up and down with great glee and joy.

Moving to Vancouver has led to many adventures and accomplishments.  It was in Vancouver I started to pursue my dream of learning to fly by joining the air cadets. That same year I tried Biathlon. The shooting added a layer of complexity and joy to cross-country skiing. Sign-me up!

A couple of years ago my dad revealed that he become a coach to help me become a better athlete. Last year he was named Biathlon Coach of the Year for Canada.  It was a BC Winter Games where I came home with several gold medals and one silver in Biathlon – I was grinning ear to ear!  Without Biathlon I would have never realized my own Olympic dreams. He was instrumental in the Vancouver 2010 bid; he and I both had volunteer roles at the Biathlon venue in 2010 and on the field of play.

He was on the range while I my role was an Anti-Doping chaperone. What better vantage point than to be in the tick of things with the athletes spectators and the media? Wow. We were even able to watch the  Women’s Biathlon before our own events.

One thing that has become crystal clear during the last four months is that there are things that might set you back, some times in a very traumatic and dramatic way, but they are meant to propel you to even greater things.  For me, having to move my business suddenly to June made momentarily question my purpose, however it introduced me to someone who then connected me with my own clinic space.  My business now has a stable foundation to growth.

The process of exploring my own story is helping me understand that I don’t celebrate my accomplishments as much as I need to.  Also, that there have been certain things in my life that have shaped my beliefs about finances and money. Thought patterns that I am in the process of changing dramatically.

Try writing out your own story. What do you discover? Find a quiet space, grab some tissue and water, now start writing.

Climbing Mountains for BC Children’s Hospital Grind for Kids

It was nearly 20 years ago when I first completed the Grouse Grind in North Vancouver while training for cross country skiing. I remember being in awe of how steep and how challenging it was. It took me until three years ago to get back on the mountain.

Grind for Kids
Participating in Grind for Kids motivates me because I know that I am participating in something that gives back twice: it increases my own fitness while raising money for the BC Children’s Hospital Foundation.
This type of fundraiser reminds of Jump for Heart – a jump rope event back in elementary school aimed at raising money for the Heart and Stroke Foundation.
Unlike a singular event where you gather pledges to participate on one day, Grind for Kids offers nearly four months of opportunity.
Meeting Jason Chong who completed over 400 Grinds this season and 1,000 in his lifetime, inspired me to finally get on board with Grind for Kids. Thankfully my previous 20 climbs count towards my total goal of a minimum 35.
I founded Lifemoves because I believe that movement is an integral part of life, no matter what your current physical abilities are or what your fitness level is. Giving back to BC’s children is important because it will enable them to enjoy more of life’s movement such as running around in the park, riding a bike or swimming in the ocean.
Supporting this foundation is important to me because it is one way I can thank everyone at children’s hospitals in British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Ontario.
6 months and 4 years old
I was born with a medical condition that made my life very tenuous and my parents were quite concerned about my survival. I had surgery twice as a child, once in Ontario when I was 6 months old and another one in Saskatchewan when I was about 4 years old. All I remember of the second in surgery is the ticklish sensation of having the stitches removed. I also have several good scars to tell the stories with.
As a stubborn 4 year old, I placed my hands in my pockets while going down some icy steps, even though my mother told me not to. There are consequences for such actions, and I hit my head on the stairs. Thankfully the hospital as only a few blocks away.
There were two major times I was in BC Children’s Hospital while in high school. The first was when I ended up on my back, twisted in a snow fence after falling during a cross country ski race in 99 Mile House. After being carted out by snowmobile and ending up on the front page of the local paper, my Dad drove me, sedated and braced in his car, back to Vancouver. I was kept on a minimal diet for three days in case I needed surgery. Thankfully, I didn’t.
This crash happened just before the BC Winter Games in Vernon, which I had qualified for by being first in my zone. I watched the games on TV as all my friends raced on the trails of one of my favourite places to ski. Determined to get back to skiing, I even went up to Hollyburn Lodge on Cypress Mountain by snowmobile while still in a cast.
The second time was when I needed corrective surgery for a deviated septum which was making breathing difficult (it didn’t fully correct). I am not sure how my nosed ended up sideways because I don’t remember breaking it. I woke up to a orange popsicle being handed to me by a nurse, who was also my friend’s mother. Getting the stuffing taken out of my nose was one of the most painful experiences in my life. Thanks Mom for letting me squeeze your hand!
As you see, there are many reasons for me to give back to all those who made a big difference in my life, most likely making it possible for me to continue. My wish is for the kids to have the best care possible and their parents to have outstanding support during their child’s illness.
Please help make a difference on my behalf by donating or pledging for for each climb:

Shift Your Thinking: Grow Your Business By Getting to Know Who Sits in Front of You

“Who sits in front of you?” asked Dr. Edward Crispin, a colleague of my grandfather’s and a family friend. I recently met Dr. Crispin, a family physician who shared some basic health care philosophies with me.
Dr Crispin’s words made me think: Who are our clients, patients and customers? Are they really ours? When did they stop being people and how did they become “ours”? They are people with lives lived, with families, with stories to tell and with experiences to share. If we listen, we will learn from each other.
We are not here to close the deal, or make the sale. Payment is a way in which others express their gratitude for their education and for being taken care of in the health and fitness industry. Money is also used in exchange for goods and services of equal perceived value.

During my 10 years of being a health and fitness professional, I have always focused on taking care of others, whether they are clients, members or the staff I lead. I strongly believe that keeping focused on taking care of others and developing relationships with people have enabled me to become successful, both financially and professionally.
Recently two former clients who are sisters brought their aging mother in to see if I could help her sustain her independence and quality of life. Their love and caring for their mother is what touched me and I am honoured. In another instance, a client who I helped educate on health and fitness for nearly eight years and who is still maintaining this lifestyle, referred his friend to me.

Shift your thinking and get to know who sits in front of you. When you get to know them, your business will flourish. You will also learn as much from them as they will learn from you. This conversation re-energized me and will shift some of Lifemoves’ metrics of success, as well as how I measure my own. I am looking forward to keeping in touch with Dr. Crispin.
Please share with us how will you make a positive difference in someone’s life each day. How will you connect with them on a deep, personal level today? Who sits in front of you?

Contributing to a Family and Olympic Legacy

During his Unleash the Power Within seminar, Tony Robbins described one of our human needs as the need to contribute. Volunteering for the Olympics fulfilled this need for me in several ways.

I was fortunate enough to be at the same venue as my father. As an only child, family is very important to me. Just knowing that he was out there somewhere filled me with a sense of pride, comfort and joy. During our time at the venue, we were able to see each other several times in the workforce break tent between events. I really enjoyed sharing this experience with him and knowing that we both contributed to the success of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.

At the end of the biathlon events, I was dismissed from my role in Anti-Doping, but before I went home I overheard that the stadium and range were going to be dismantled. To me, this was a call to action. Even though I was not part of the Biathlon Range or Stadium crew, I knew I had to lend my two hands and capable body. It was outstanding how well everyone worked together as a team to accomplish this significant goal in about one and a half hours.

Afterward, I stood in amazement on the range with my dad and thought, “Wow! I am at the Olympics with Dad.” I held on to my vision of participating in the Olympics; to me it did not matter that it was not as an athlete. We also took a group photo in the penalty loop, with a bunch of us standing on the podium, including myself.

These are stories and memories that Dad and I will continue to share and reflect on together for years to come.

I took my role as an Anti-Doping Chaperone very seriously, not because I was involved in Doping Control, but because I knew that our interactions with athletes, coaches, officials and team doctors would be part of shaping their Olympic experience and the stories they told when they went home. The feedback we had about Doping Control was that everything went very well. I am proud of our team at Biathlon.

I also spoke with athletes who were at Turin in 2006, who thought our facilities and athletes village were much better. I was also honoured to witness the pride of someone receiving his first Olympic medal. As volunteers, we are referred to as the “Blue Jackets” by John Furlong. We all had our roles and without them, the games would not have succeeded. I am also extremely grateful for all the spectators and residents of Vancouver and Whistler who I met. I noted the enthusiasm and pride they had for the athletes of their home nations, Canada or otherwise, and I was touched and amazed. Thank you to everyone who surrounded me and embraced this unique experience with me.

The legacies of the 2010 Olympic Games are many. Not only do we have new facilities to use for generations to come, but we also have a renewed sense of Canadian pride and memories of all those who journeyed here to participate (athletes, spectators, and athlete families). I hope that this pride carries over and the athletic accomplishments of the Olympic and Paralympic athletes inspires our nation to dig deep and become the champions they have inside themselves.

What are you going to do today to find and unleash your inner champion?