Who are you?

I can’t even tell you if this is a real memory or not, but many years ago when I was somewhere around 18 I made some glib comment about “finding myself”. My aunt replied with a quote:

Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.

George Bernard Shaw

And yes, it’s a bit cliché and something your neighbor would have on a coffee cup or something, but, like most quotes, I think it hides a deep truth.

A short article in the Guardian, “Are you really yourself” reminded me of the lesson. Life is not about digging under some veeneer or removing layers of vinyl flooring until you find the original hardwood. It’s about accepting that our inner narative may be limiting us.

In the past I’ve often shied away from my rural past. It wasn’t me. I wasn’t like all the other rural folks who drove ski-doos and went hunting. I was a computer nerd. There was no place for both or for something else. I was in essence playing an archetype.

Perhaps the challenge in changing our minds about who we really are is not to rationally persuade ourselves into a new story about who we are, but to learn to live for periods of our life without one.

Are you really yourself“- Guardian

What preconceived notions about myself do I have left to ignore?
What about you? What are the ones you ignored and grew from? How did they happen?

That person who comments

I had a message a while back that read:

“Hey, so I read your last blog post. And to be honest, I drafted 3 different comments on 3 different posts on your blog, but lost my nerve before hitting submit on any of them. I really enjoy reading your blog, since it’s real and honest, but commenting is intimidating. I don’t want to be *that* person that comments with a tangentially related personal experience on all your posts. But I really appreciate that you write outloud, putting yourself out there for us to see a real, live human being living a real, human life.
Anyway, I didn’t post that as a comment, since it’s rambly and self indulgent.”

And I found it super interesting since I often have no idea who actually reads this and if there is any value to it.
I do have a few folks who reach out privately on various topics and give feedback, some of them pretty regularly (which I greatly appreciate) but it’s often a bit of a mystery. I know that shouldn’t really matter but it’s still something I always find interesting. Why is it that we always seek that external validation? Is it simply the dopamine hit we get when we interact with other humans? Is the only purpose to help mammal bonding?

And if it is “just” that, do we need to do anything about it?

Viveport sucks

So I cancelled my viveport account, I’m not sure, like 2-3 months ago. And then today noticed that they had just charged me again! So I contact support, and oh, they can’t refund me unless I somehow have a screenshot of the cancellation screen of my refund.

That’s total BS, I’m going to do a chargeback via my Visa, but I’d really recommend everyone be really careful with Viveport. Pretty shady and I won’t trust them in the future. See relevant post about refunds as brand loyalty.

Money gets to people’s head

There’s a good interview with Abigail Disney who, as you may of guessed by the last name, has a lot of money.

You can read it here: https://www.thecut.com/2019/03/abigail-disney-has-more-money-than-shell-ever-spend.html

I think there’s this idea that we should all aim to be rich. That money is a valid metric for success. I think it’s a bit like wanting to be CTO or CEO (something I’ve struggled with potentially wanting). It’s outsourcing your feelings of self worth to something you can point to. It’s not real, but you can tell yourself it’s important.

Brand Disloyalty

I still remember vividly that day at Scotiabank. I had just started university and wanted a line of credit for my small business. I had my business plan, which allegedly was important and met the manager. I was looking for $5000 and my father was willing to co-sign. He was not interested and for all intents and purposes told me to stop wasting his time.

The funny thing is now a decade later. Scotiabank really wants me as a client. Mortgage, credit cards, even lines of credit. I suspect that I make banks money now. I have a good job, have a house and some investments. But I’ll never bank with Scotia.

If you have a really big business, I think you need to be careful in not pissing off future clients. Maybe It wasn’t worth that manager’s time then, but if you didn’t care about me then, I won’t care about you now.

Mental Health in the workplace

I got one of the best compliments Yesterday. Someone I worked with previously is interested in starting discussions around mental health at their new workplace because of how much it helped them when we worked together.

I mentioned a bit of what happened (most of this was not done by me, I was just one small part of the events that happened) and I thought it might be helpful to share here.

It first started with someone saying that during one of the company meetups they would have a 1h thing where people can just come and chat about mental health in a random room. There were a few people who showed up. We decided to create a private slack channel where people could just talk openly about mental health. Word of mouth started spreading, especially among people who were like “Well, it’s not really _that_ bad, I don’t have a diagnosis, etc etc”. We welcomed them all.

I (and I’m sure many others) had follow up conversations with folks who were mentioning going thru rough patches. Since I was quite open about it, often mentioning in the #watercooler channel if I was feeling depressed or anxious and taking a break, lots of folks send me DMs just asking me about it and just wanting to chat. Sometimes it was about them, sometimes about a loved one.

I’d ask them all if they wanted to join and convinced them that even if it “wasn’t that bad” they should join. At another team meetup I did a lunch thing where folks could come and eat lunch one day with others and chat about mental health (or just listen).

It was just to see others who were also working thru things. You didn’t need to talk or anything, you could just listen. I did a bit of an intro of why I think it’s important and some of the things I struggle with, a few other people spoke, some didn’t (but they often would send me a private message saying thanks later).

When I left, it’s one of the things people told me they appreciated the most. To have someone who they saw as senior and a leader talk about this. It made them feel like it was “okay” to feel that way sometimes.

I’ve started doing talks in workplaces about this as well, if you (dear reader) think it could be useful for your workplace, I’m always happy to give a talk. I don’t charge anything but I ask that the organization make a donation to Kids Help Phone. For some organizations, donations aren’t possible so I send an invoice and make the donation myself.

I’ve done this talk in workplaces and at conferences such as Confoo and the feedback has always been very positive:

“6/5 Sensitive topic explained simply and with humour”

“Great personal touch”

“Good energy, interesting perspective and personal anecdotes”

“Very good talk. Honest, straighforward, helpful.”

“Important topic presented in a funny manner”

Confoo 2016 feedback

Stéphane’s candid testimonial on mental health issues was truly engaging. With his great sense of humour and genuine presence, Stéphane puts his audience at ease, making participants receptive and open to tackle what can sometimes be a heavy topic. Having “just a regular guy” come in to share his knowledge of mental health, sprinkled with personal anecdotes, made us feel like we were having a conversion with an old friend. We learned lots of great tips and tricks to prevent or deal and were inspired to talk about mental health more openly.

Great talk, Stéphane, thank you!”

Gabrielle Michaud,
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada / Government of Canada

If you or anyone you know wants to chat about mental health, I’m always happy to listen.
Spoiler alert, I’m not a professional and will probably recommend you talk to someone a bit more qualified.

Fear in leadership part 2

I often used to assign malice to folks in leadership positions I strongly disagreed with. I then slowly moved to assigning ignorance. It made being compassionate to these folks much easier. Now, I often assign fear.  https://stephboisvert.ca/2018/12/23/fear-in-leadership/

Now here’s the tricky part. It’s way easier to notice and see this in others. Looking inwards at what you are afraid of…. Now that’s much trickier.

Rise of populism

There are lots of good think pieces on the rise of populism. This one has an interesting take on why the lying that Trump does is not a problem.

The rise of highly polished, professional politicians such as Tony Blair and Bill Clinton exacerbated the sense that politics is all about strategic concealment of the truth, something that the Iraq war seemed to confirm as much as anything. Trump or Farage may have a reputation for fabricating things, but they don’t (rightly or wrongly) have a reputation for concealing things, which grants them a form of credibility not available to technocrats or professional politicians.

It’s and interesting read: https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/nov/29/why-we-stopped-trusting-elites-the-new-populism


I apologized yesterday to someone I hadn’t talked to in many years.

I had thought about it a few times. But I always felt it would be weird. Or maybe that’s what I told myself to not have to deal with admitting I could have acted better.

I was pretty much “in the box” at the time. It felt good to apologize. They did as well. In a way, I think we were (and probably still are) very similar. It’s interesting how when we see ourselves reflected back to us we can see our flaws. Well, we probably don’t acknowledge that those are also our flaws, but we see them. We notice them and they frustrate us.

I think it’s noticing the similarities and the shared flaws that bring about compassion. It’s often easier with someone who “looks” like us. And I use look not just in the physical visual sense of the word, but “looks” in the same way Facebook does lookalike audiences.

I have a few other folks I’ve always wanted to apologize to. There are a few I’ve done, but not many, not enough anyway. Perhaps I should start on that…

The End is not a Failure

Often people talk about things that have ended like they were a failure. Mostly with relationships but often with other parts of life. Just because something ends, that doesn’t mean it failed. It could of been a great 5 year relationship that has lived it’s course or leaving a job  where you had a great time.

Things often come to an end, it doesn’t make it a failure.