Make Your Mark Weekend Seminar
From Jan 22-24th, I attended Colin Sprake’s “Make Your Mark” weekend seminar where several hundred people came together to learn from a passionate loud Australian businessman about business mastery. The funny thing is, he didn’t teach us anything about business ̶besides telling us glorious details about his business success and failures, he put us through many exercise for personal growth. Colin drilled into us, that unless you change your mindset, you won’t be able to achieve the outer success you desire. He cautioned us about how we spend our time, whom we call our friends, what music we listen to and what types of movies we watch, because all of it influence and shape who we are as people. That little bit of caution really struck a cord with me, as I had grown fearful of rich people from all the Korean dramas I’ve been watching since they’re portrayed as evil, manipulative and complete selfish bastards. I knew to stay away from the regular News so as not to get so negative, and I was aware of the types of music, but I had completely forgotten the impact of violent films and these narratives we consume as entertainment that further implant stereotypes in society.
I went with a friend, and ran into two other friends who were a part of his staff, and two more friends who were attendees. I also made some new friends. One young man I met was Ryan Thomas, a Military Captain who is now working as a financial advisor. It was a fantastic way to discuss all that we learned during our one hour lunch break at the hotel restaurant or nearly food court, and everyone was so open-hearted and entrepreneurial. We did many exercises to memorize the philosophies that Darren Week put forth, and had to repeat them with a group until we got all the points.
One exercise I really enjoyed was writing down our story of “why”, and Colin shared his story about sexual abuse and bullying which made him passionate about teaching people business mastery so there would be less divorce and thus happier and healthier communities. One thing he said stayed with me and it’s that bullying does not start in schools, it starts in our homes. It never occurred to me, but it makes total sense. I was blown away by his courage for sharing such intimate and embarrassing details about his personal past with total strangers in this format, and now I can see how empowering and inspiring that is. He owns his past, and is not chased by shame, or guilt or any of the negative emotions associated with the potentially tragic experiences he had as a child. He now uses his own personal story to give others courage to share their stories. He put on Power Point slides of several of his past students who have incorporated their personal story in their business marketing material and it’s 100% more real, authentic and makes you feel that you got to know that person that much better. I was very inspired, so I’ve been pondering how to write out my why. Hopefully I could share it with you soon.
I remember reading in Jack Canfield’s book, “Success Principle” about a party he attended where they dressed up as the person they intended to become in 5 years. He went as a New York Bestselling author and much sought after public speaker and had a ball with his friends, and in 5 years, many of their intentions came true. I always wanted to attend a party like that and that wish was realized somewhat at this weekend. Darren asked all of us to run to total strangers and excitedly celebrate with them as if our dreams had come true. So people told me about buying their dream house on the beach, and paying it off, living happily with their family, or meeting the love of their life, etc. They were truly excited! It was beautiful to see people’s eyes light up as they describe their dreams in vivid detail. Of course, we were screaming at each other because there were hundreds of people.
One thing that did bother me about the whole weekend was the overarching mantra that if you ask the universe, you shall receive. I kept thinking of Jeffrey Armstrong’s caution about karma, for every action there is an equal reaction. I wonder the karma of Colin telling everybody that the universe is essentially Santa Clause. I quite liked Colin, he seems like a big hearted pragmatic guy who doesn't bull shit around. Yet, I wonder that the danger of his preaching is actually a new and even more dangerous form of capitalism, of stimulating more desire, telling them that the success of your business has nothing to do with the economy, but has to do with the amount of hard work you put in. I found that to be rather ignorant and idiotic. There are plenty of hardworking people all around the world, yet they’re not rolling in money. Even he himself admitted to selling his business in 2008 when the economy crashed.
He gifted each event attendee with a 30-day journal. It has a daily review in which you write down 5 of your successes, 3 things you’re grateful for, 3 actions you took towards your big dreams, and 3 actions you took towards your happiness. I used that journey and it was fantastic, because it really keeps you in check with your emotional well being, to be in a place of faith, gratitude, and keep your feet on the ground running towards a solid goal. I did not buy his business Sharpa program, because I don’t believe one man can teach me about Sales, Marketing, Social Media, Website building, Leadership, Finance & HR. I’m sure his very talented team is stellar, but to me that’s a bit out of integrity. He could have told us who else will be teaching besides him, but that business was centered on how great he is at business and how much success he’s helped others achieve. There were no shortage of sign-ups, and I appreciated his soft sale approach.
It was a great weekend refresher with a few ah-ha moments, and it reminded me again that our past is our past, there is no reason for shame because our experience is what builds our character. Mistakes is how we learn and grow, and it does not define who we are. To find out more, or sign up for your next free Make Your Mark weekend, visit www.mysuccess.com
Paris, City of Lights
Oh Paris, how I have spent years imagining your exquisite streets full of architectural delight with gargoyles, beautiful railings, statues, and cute suave curly-haired waiters in impeccable suits serving that quintessential cup of coffee while watching fashionable Parisian ladies walk by. That’s not exactly what happened to me in the three days I was there. First , I met up with the rest of my clan to make up a tag team of eleven, oldest being my grandfather of 88 years. As my mother is a black belt in finding deals and a superb travel logistic organizer, our whole family decided not to book a tour with an established company. We took the train from London to Paris and immediately had to fight the 300 years old public metro system in Paris. It has stairs upon stairs and a turnstile ticket system which got me stuck with my suitcase, bottlenecking the entrance for a good 10 minutes, until a kind Parisian lady behind me put her ticket in and pushed both of us through. One thing I loved about our travel was the fact that we were travelling like everyday European locals, taking the metros to go sightseeing, going to local restaurants, and just plain walking around.
In Paris, be prepared to walk around for hours because of those damn confusing round-about islands that traffic lanes circle around, and streets span out from. They also have little streets connecting in between. So instead of the square city blocks we’re used to in North America, it looks like a ripple. Then there are one way streets and funny triangular buildings to throw you off even more. Our first day as tourists was spent lost around the Opera House and trying to find Paris’ official tourism office (non-existent) in hopes of getting a city map in Chinese (also non-existent) to plan our sightseeing.
After finally finding an English-speaking person in Money Mart, who also used to work for the tourism office, she recommended that we take the City Sightseeing tour. It was about $75 for 3 days – 3 routes that go to all the most popular sites across Paris, fully equipped with WiFi, air conditioning, and tourist guide information via ear phone to each seat in 10 + languages. These double-decker buses are all over the city and come every 10 minutes. We had just spent 130 Euros to buy ourselves each a 3-day unlimited Paris metro pass, and we thought it was a waste to not use it. But after trying for 30 minutes to get to the next metro station heading to the Louvre, my family went to the city sightseeing head office to get on the bus.
Unlike my family, I was determined to make good usage of that metro pass. I took the metro and got off at Champs Elysees, half way between the Arc de Triomphe and the Louvre. The BEST experience was finding a world-class violinist playing live in the hallway at the station where I exited.
I stood across and filmed him for 3 songs. I looked like a super fan and clapped my hands like a mad woman when he finished, making him blush. Unfortunately, I ran away from my family a bit too quickly and didn’t take my purse, only a little bit of cash, so I couldn’t even give him a donation. I tried to speak to him but he only spoke French, so I left my business card in his violin case, which only got a confused look from him. It was the most memorable 20 minutes of my whole European trip. I exited onto a bustling large avenue with super picturesque restaurants and cafes and parks and shops. I was oogling the scene and was bouncing with excitement for the cool photos I got to take, feeling the pride of an amateur street photographer. I saw vendors who sold crepes instead of hotdogs; I found great parks with amazing gardens, and small statues for water fountains.
I was so amused by the quirky and puzzling window displays I saw along the way, and buildings with green bronze statues on top, and Mercedes taxies.
It was early September and it felt like the middle of summer. Everyone was wearing T-shirts and shorts or summer dresses. I got the feeling of grandeur, as everything was so wide. It took about 30 minutes to walk to the entrance of the Louvre. There was the water fountain where at the end of the movie “The Devil Wears Prada” where Anne Hathaway throws away her work cell phone.
As it turns out, there are two of these water fountains. I took a photo of a blond Parisian girl in a black and white striped summer dress. I felt like I got evidence that I came to the city of lights. During my walk, I saw some street artists: a guy fully painted in gold, another in silver and a lady as the Egyptian pharaoh. The drop of a coin would get them to do a robotic dance for a short while. I walked past the Obelisk (which they stole from Egypt). It was the second one that I've seen – the first one was in London. I entered the grounds of the Louvre, which was once a king’s castle. I walked another 30 minutes pass beautiful large gardens and a big hexagon shaped pond, numerous statues of historical figures and animals to finally arrive at the real front gate of the Louvre. By then, I was dehydrated, a bit sun baked and starving. My enthusiasm for people-watching dropped to zero in search of lunch, and despite my strong yearning to really see all there was to see inside, my calf muscles were screaming, “Stop the punishment”. Along the way, I saw African men hawking metal Eiffel towers and other tourist mementos for sale. They all had thick accents so I’m guessing they’re from French colonies in Africa. They were friendly and could say hello in Chinese.
After entering the glass building, I headed to the cafeteria to satisfy my hunger, then started on my own journey. I rented a blue tooth audio tour guide and headed straight for the Mona Lisa. Man, was she popular. There must have been at least three hundred people hording around that painting to take photos. I just stood far away to get a side glance at her eyebrow – less beauty. I didn’t really understand her allure or fame. The whole room was impressive with its rich red walls, extremely tall ceilings, and paintings along one side, sometimes covering a third or half of the wall. I was blown away by the intricate details, the vivid imagery, use of colour and expensive gold frames in which these giant paintings live in. Everything looked so luxurious and opulent; it really puts Vegas’ Bellagio to shame. I absolutely fell in love with the ceiling of the Louvre, everywhere I looked, there was the most intricate moulding of gold around the edges and murals on the ceiling.
It’s beautiful beyond words since the paintings seemed so real and 3D. I learned from my audio guide that the French King Louie the 13th started to collect art as gifts from various dignitaries, as well as having his own massive collection. After the French revolution, the Louvre became property of France, and now for the public to enjoy. It is so elaborate and impressive how organized it is, by region, time, and such detailed explanation of each painting, sculpture’s artist, creation, and historical significance.
My head was spinning from information overload, dodging traffic and overwhelmed by one of a kind priceless pieces. My favourite sculpture was Cupid’s Kiss. Cupid and his female lover are both young teenagers, with their perfectly cute round butt. His loving expression and the detailed feather wings were so lifelike, it looked like they were frozen in an eternal moment and would wake up at any time. The overall feeling I got from the Louvre was playfulness, sensuality and monumental status. Since all these pieces are made for royalty or to capture a moment in history, you get the seriousness from each, especially from all the religious paintings. Perhaps those people were hungry because they didn’t look happy, especially the bishops with their long faces. Unlike the museum in London, I got the feeling that the pieces in the Louvre were a bunch of peacocks competing for attention from the global tourist audience, each showing off for maximum attention. It was a dizzying and unforgettable experience, which had me vow to come back with a full stomach and better endurance.
After the Louvre visit, I headed back to my hotel to meet up with my friend, a Parisian who I had met the summer prior at Burning Man. He promised to show me around. On my way, as I got closer to my stop, I noticed more and more teenagers on the train, some shirtless, all of them with a line of red or pink lipstick mark on their cheeks like war paint. If you’ve ever experienced 420 in Vancouver, you know that feeling, the descending of that chaotic teenage angst and excitement building in the air. I got off at my station and so did every excited teen. I got onto the street level and it was jam packed with a million teenagers dancing to two large Euro techno-blasting concert buses, some hanging and sitting on top of the statue in the middle of the Square. Suddenly I had a feeling of fear, that crazy wild chaotic energy was even more pronounced in the air, and I felt like this party would either turn into a giant open orgy or a revolution. It didn’t, since there were SWAT teams in helmets, carrying batons, giving everyone mean looks as teenagers smoked, danced and made out in front of them. In all that chaos, I completely lost direction where the hell my hotel was located and realized I didn't even have an address to go by.
After 30 minutes of wandering around trying to find the little side street where my hotel was located, I begged a private liquor store to lend me his WiFi password so I could check my hotmail and find my hotel’s address. By the time I got to my hotel, my friend had been waiting for me for 2 hours! I had forgotten that there was a one-hour difference between London and Paris, and I was 1 hour late, but my friend forgave me. We went out to join the party and settled down at a street café near the Seine River. The party followed those two big music-pumping buses, and the trail of empty beer bottles, cigarette butts, crushed soft drink containers and all sorts of garbage got left behind. I was commenting how shocking it is to see that level of garbage and even on our biggest public event, which sometimes draws upwards of 750,000 people to the summer fireworks, you don’t see this level of dirtiness. My friend immediately told me that the French are descendents of Romans, so they’re dirty, and the Italians are even dirtier than them. A shocking bit of fact.
We then went to my friend’s favourite restaurant La Midinette Restaurant Bar, and I must say, the food was so delicious. I was shocked that the restaurant could only seat 8 people at a time, and even then, it was not very full for a Saturday night. It was in a busy popular neighbourhood full of restaurants and entertainment establishments, so it was great to just walk on the cobblestone, look around and hear different music coming out of each establishment. It seemed everybody was out. Each restaurant had a terrace, and there were tiny round tables which everything must fit on. Beer, food, cigarette tray, napkin, wine, and who knows what else.
After our meal, my friend and I went to relax by the river in the lazy sunset. He gave me a geography lesson about the University nearby, and told me how real Parisians would never take those tourist river cruises that go up and down the Seine River. Next to us were some students hanging out drinking beer, and everyone smoked, including my friend. I was surprised to see alcohol being consumed so nonchalantly in public, even by really young people. We took the metro to the Sacred Heart, and heard a young black fellow sing English pop songs with his guitar on the train. The Sacred Heart Church is located at the north end of Paris and we saw an incredible night view, including when the Eiffel Tower began to glitter and sparkle. It must been a romantic spot, as there were many couples sitting on the lawn in front of the Sacred Heart Church. Walking around that neighbourhood made my heart sing. Fancy scarf shops, unique restaurants, funky street art along the steps, and exploring cobblestone streets. That is the foundation of romantic comedy movies.
The next day, I met up with my friend again. He took me to his friend’s apartment in a good central neighbourhood to show me what a real Parisian home looked like. The apartment was tiny, maybe 500 square feet for a young couple, for which they pay 600 euro monthly. There were only two rooms. The front door opened to the kitchen/dining room with an attached shower, and then the living room/bedroom had bunker beds. I gasped that they didn’t even have a closet nor a toilet, and definitely no room for a bike. The kitchen had a giant water boiler above the stove. The wallpaper and furniture were a 1950s art deco style with yellow flowers, which reminded of my childhood in China. I looked for those iron pipes that warmed up the place and sure enough found it in the bedroom. Their window was really unique. They were metal sheets that can be pushed out with a metal stick, but they also opened. The view was of other apartment buildings. Unlike China, they don’t hang dry their underwear outside those windows. I found a few books in their small living room, half of which were books on philosophy, which was impressive. I heard that between two French people, there would be three opinions. I didn’t stay long enough to have a philosophical debate.
We went to a typical French restaurant for Sunday brunch and sat on the terrace outside. Our Sunday brunch took a long time to come. A young American couple sat next to us, and as she squeezed in, her purse knocked over my cup of water and got me all wet. I jumped into the lap of my other neighbour who became an instant friend. The American couple apologized profusely and told us about their Saturday night’s clubbing and seeing Nicki Minaj, since that was the after party for the Beyoncé concert. I shared some of my very prized Japanese chocolates with my new American friends and practiced English with my other neighbour. Our beer showed up instantly, but food took 45 minutes to come. I watched a table of four next to us polish off three bottles of wine and endless cigarettes in that time, and it was only 11:30am. After we were done eating, I waited patiently for the waiter to bring us our check, and he never did, even asking for it twice. After 1 hour, I got fed up and walked inside the restaurant to demand a check; they didn’t even have a cash area. The waiter didn’t apologize and just gave me the bill, and that was that.
Many posh looking families walked by and I was reminded that it was Sunday and I was visiting a catholic country. The restaurant was nestled in a small open market and there was a choir of about 12 young people singing not too far away. We also walked by a really dusty looking bookstore with a fascinating paper puppet theatre in the window. All these little funny moments brought a big smile to my face, and I revelled in the joy of travel for those tiny moments of delight. Weird funny people giving me a totally new and fresh experience.
Travelling along the French metro stations is an experience all on its own, each station looking totally different from one another. Some of them have empty small malls in the underground square leading up to the station with police in camouflage and AK47s guarding them.
Some tunnels connecting to the metro station look like a stone tomb hallway, while some stations have gleaming bronze metal walls with modern light fixtures which could pass as a cool pub. You just never know what you’re going to see. The most ridiculous thing that I saw was a small shop selling fresh vegetables and fruits. I was thinking